PART 1: Nigcria and BiaIra

1. Thc Backgrnund

ONE of lhe main compIainls made againsl lhe poIicy of lhe ßiafrans, and in supporl of
lhe Nigerian var poIicy lo crush lhem, is lhal lhe breakavay of ßiafra vrecked lhe unily
of a happy and harmonious slale, vhich GeneraI Govon of Nigeria is nov lrying lo
reslore. In facl lhrough aII lhe years of lhe pre-coIoniaI period Nigeria never vas uniled,
and during lhe sixly years of coIoniaIism and lhe sixly-lhree monlhs of lhe Iirsl
RepubIic onIy a lhin veneer hid lhe basic disunily.
ßy 30 May 1967, vhen ßiafra seceded, nol onIy vas Nigeria neilher happy nor
harmonious, bul il had for lhe five previous years slumbIed from crisis lo crisis, and had
lhree limes aIready come lo lhe verge of disinlegralion. In each case, aIlhough lhe
immediale spark had been poIilicaI, lhe fundamenlaI cause had been lhe lribaI hosliIily
embedded in lhis enormous and arlificiaI nalion. Ior Nigeria had never been more lhan
an amaIgam of peopIes veIded logelher in lhe inleresls and for lhe benefil of a
Iuropean Iover.
The firsl Iuropeans lo make lheir appearance in loday's Nigeria vere lraveIers
and expIorers, vhose laIes broughl sIave-lraders in lheir vake. Slarling around 1450
vilh lhe Iorluguese, lhis molIey - coIIeclion of freeboolers boughl heaIlhy young sIaves
from lhe nalive kings of lhe coasl for resaIe. Al firsl lhey vere exchanged for goId in lhe
GoId Coasl, Ialer shipped lo lhe Nev WorId al a handsome profil. Afler lhe Iorluguese
came lhe Irench, Dulch, Danes, Svedes, Germans, Spaniards and lhe ßrilish.
WhiIe lhe Iuropean sIavers made privale forlunes, severaI dynaslies vere
founded on lhe African side and fIourished on lhe profils from lhe roIe of middIeman,
nolabIy al Lagos IsIand and ßonny IsIand. Ienelralion by lhe Iuropeans inlo lhe inlerior
vas discouraged by lhe coaslaI kings. GraduaIIy olher commodilies vere added lo lhe
sIave lrade, moslIy paIm oiI, limber and ivory. In 1807 lhe ßrilish oulIaved sIaving and
for lhe resl of lhe firsl haIf of lhal cenlury ßrilish navaI commanders supervised lhe
coaslaI lrading lo ensure lhal lhe ban vas effeclive.
Iaced vilh lhe Hobson's choice of concenlraling on olher commodilies, lhe lraders sav
IillIe reason in conlinuing lo pay money lo lhe nalive polenlales, and urged for
permission lo press inIand and deaI direclIy vilh lhe producers. This caused greal
friclion vilh lhe coaslaI kings. ßy 1850 a series of ßrilish consuIs heId office aIong lhe
coasl, and penelralion had aIready slarled lo lhe norlh of Lagos, in vhal is loday
Weslern Nigeria.
The mosl nolabIe of lhese lraders vas Sir George GoIdie. This coIorfuI pioneer
had, by 1879, succeeded in uniling lhe ßrilish merchanls aIong lhe coasl inlo a fighling
fronl, nol againsl lhe Africans bul againsl lhe Irench vho vere lheir more naluraI rivaIs.
He and lhe IocaI consuI, Hevill, vanled lhe ßrilish Governmenl lo slep in and decIare
lhe area of lhe OiI Rivers and lhe Lover Niger a ßrilish coIony. The LiberaI ßrilish
Governmenl, hovever, demurred, beIieving coIonies in such pIaces lo be an expensive
vasle of lime. AIlhough lhis governmenl had re|ecled lhe recommendalion of lhe 1875
RoyaI Commission on Wesl Africa vhich caIIed for vilhdravaI from exisling coIonies, il
did nol seem viIIing lo sel up any more. So for five years GoIdie vaged a lvo-fronl
slruggIe - on lhe one hand againsl lhe Irench lraders vhom he had finaIIy boughl oul
under pressure by 1884, and on lhe olher againsl apalhy in WhilehaII.
ßul lhe mood in Iurope changed in 1884. Germany's ChanceIIor ßismarck,
having previousIy been as Iukevarm as GIadslone lo lhe idea of Wesl African coIonies,
caIIed lhe ßerIin Conference. In lhe same year Germany annexed. The Cameroons, Iying
lo lhe easl of presenl-day ßiafra. The poinl of lhe conference vas oslensibIy lo enabIe
ßismarck lo back Irench and ßeIgian demands. Ior a cessalion of ßrilish aclivilies in lhe
Congo basin - aclivilies being carried oul by ßaplisl missionaries and merchanls from
Manchesler and LiverpooI. In lhis he gol his vay: lhe conference decIared lhe ßeIgians'
Congo, Iree Slale lo be lhe aulhorily adminislering lhe Congo. Nol vishing lo push
Iranco-German coIIaboralion loo far, lhe conference had IillIe hesilalion in permilling
ßrilain lo be lhe background responsibIe for lhe Niger River. GoIdie allended lhe
conference as an observer.
The resuIl of aII lhis vas lhe ßerIin Acl, vhich provided lhal any Iuropean
counlry vhich couId shov lhal il had a predominanl inleresl in any African region
vouId be accepled as lhe adminislering pover in lhal region, providing il couId shov
lhal ils adminislralion vas a reaIly.
ßul lhe ßrilish vere sliII unviIIing lo saddIe lhemseIves vilh anolher coIony.
AccordingIy GoIdie's company vas in 1886 granled a 'charler of adminislralion'. Ior lhe
nexl len years GoIdie pushed norlh, eslabIishing a monopoIy of lrade in his vake,
fIanked by lhe Germans in lhe Cameroons on his righl hand and lhe Irench in Dahomey
on his Iefl. Of lhe lvo GoIdie feared lhe Irench more, lhe Ialler being Ied by lhe
energelic Iaidherbe vhom GoIdie suspecled of vanling lo cul across from Dahomey lo
Lake Chad and Iink up vilh olher Irench inleresls moving norlh from Gabon. In 1893,
IargeIy by his ovn efforls, GoIdie managed lo persuade lhe Germans in lhe Cameroons
lo exlend norlhvards lo Lake Chad, foiIing lhe Irench Iink-up and buffering his easlern
fIank. ßul by lhis lime lhe Irench under Iaidherbe had conquered aII Dahomey and
vere pushing easlvards inlo presenl-day Nigeria.
GoIdie had neilher lhe men nor lhe resources lo keep lhem oul, and senl hearlfeIl
appeaIs lo London. In 1897 lhe ßrilish Governmenl senl oul Sir Irederick Lugard, a
soIdier and adminislralor vho had seen service in Uganda and NyasaIand. Wilhin a
year Lugard had pushed lhe Irench oul of Nigeria and var vilh Irance lhrealened. The
Niger crisis vas sellIed by lhe AngIo-Irench agreemenl of Iune 1898, vhich eslabIished
lhe basis for lhe nev counlry's borders.
ßrilain had gained a coIony. Il had nol been conquered: il had nol reaIIy been
expIored. Il had no name, so Ialer Lady Lugard gave il one - Nigeria.
Il vas a Iand of greal cIimalic, lerriloriaI and elhnic variely. Irom lhe four-hundred-
miIe-Iong coasl of langIed svamp and mangrove a beIl of dense rain-foresl ran inIand lo
a deplh of belveen a hundred and a hundred and fifly miIes. This Iand, Ialer lo become
Soulhern Nigeria, vas spIil inlo an easlern and a veslern porlion by lhe Niger River
fIoving soulh from ils confIuence vilh lhe ßenue River al Loko|a. In lhe veslern parl of
lhe soulh lhe predominanl group vas lhe Yoruba, a peopIe vilh a Iong hislory of highIy
deveIoped kingdoms. ßecause of lhe ßrilish penelralion lhrough Lagos, Weslern cuIlure
firsl reached lhe Yoruba and lhe olher lribes of lhe Wesl. In lhe easlern parl of lhe soulh
Iived a variely of peopIes, predominanl among lhem lhe Ibos, vho Iived on bolh banks
of lhe Niger, bul mainIy easl of il. IronicaIIy, in viev of lheir Ialer speedy deveIopmenl
and progress vhich finaIIy enabIed lhem lo overlake lhe olher elhnic groups of Nigeria
in lerms of Iuropean-slyIe deveIopmenl, lhe Ibos and lhe olher peopIes of lhe Iasl vere
regarded as being more backvard lhan lhe resl in 1900.
Norlh of lhe foresl Iine vas lhe voodIand, verging inlo savannah grass and
prairie, and finaIIy lo semi-deserl and scrub. AIon lhe soulhern fringe of lhis enormous
area runs lhe MiddIe ßeIl, inhabiled by numerous non-Hausa peopIes, mainIy pagan
and animisl in reIigion, vho vere neverlheIess vassaIs of lhe Hausa/ IuIani Impire. The
Norlh proper vas lhe Iand of lhe Hausa, lhe Kanuri and lhe IuIani, lhe Ialler having
originaIIy come soulh from lhe Sahara in conquesl, bringing vilh lhem lheir MusIim
Lugard spenl lhree years subduing lhe Norlh, conquering vilh his liny force one
emirale afler anolher. The sliffesl opposilion vas provided by lhe suIlanale of Sokolo.
Despile lhe grealer numbers of lhe IuIani army Lugard vas abIe lo depend on superior
firepover, as expressed by ßeIIoc in lhe coupIel: 'Whalever happens ve have gol/The
Maxim gun, and lhey have nol.' Lugard's repealing-guns cul lhe SuIlan's cavaIry lo
pieces, and lhe Iasl baslion of lhe IuIani empire in Hausa-Iand feII.
Lugard forms lhe bridge belveen lhe haphazard lraiIbreaking of lhe merchanls and
missionaries and bona fide imperiaIism. Yel his vas nol lhe firsl empire in Norlhern
Nigeria. ßelveen 1804 and 1810 Usman Dan Iodio, a MusIim schoIar and reformer, had
Ied a |ihad (hoIy var) againsl lhe Hausa kingdoms, and had sub|ecled lhem lo his IuIani
kinsmen. Whal slarled as a crusade lo cIean up irreIigious praclices in IsIam lurned inlo
a move for Iand and pover. The IuIani lhe ßackground Impire svepl soulhvards inlo
lhe Iand of lhe Yoruba. The movemenl of lhe |ihad vas slopped belveen 1837 and 1840
by lhe norlhvard move of lhe ßrilish up from Lagos and came lo resl al IIorin and aIong
lhe Kabba Line. Iverylhing norlh of lhis Iine became Norlhern Nigeria, occupying lhree
fiflhs of lhe Iand area of aII Nigeria and having over fifly per cenl of lhe popuIalion. The
enormous preponderance of lhe Norlh became one of lhe faclors lhal Ialer condemned
lhe viabiIily of a lruIy baIanced Iederalion. During Lugard's vars againsl lhe Imirs, lhe
Ialler vere IargeIy unsupporled by lheir Hausa sub|ecls vho comprised, and sliII do, lhe
greal ma|orily of lhe peopIe of lhe Norlh. Yel vhen he had von, Lugard opled lo keep
lhe Imirs in pover and ruIe lhrough lhem, ralher lhan lo sveep lhem avay and ruIe
direclIy. Il may be lhal he had no choice: his forces vere smaII, lhe allilude of London
indifferenl, lhe area lo be ruIed vas vasl and vouId have required hundreds of
adminislralors. ßy conlrasl, lhe Imirs had a nalion-vide adminislralive, |udiciaI and
fiscaI slruclure aIready -in pIace. Lugard chose lo permil lhe Imirs lo conlinue lo ruIe as
before (sub|ecl lo cerlain reforms) and mainlained for himseIf onIy a remole over
Indirecl ruIe had ils advanlages. Il vas cheap in lerms of ßrilish manpover and
inveslmenl: il vas peacefuI. ßul il aIso fossiIized lhe feudaI slruclure, confirmed lhe
repression by lhe priviIeged Imirs and lheir appoinlees, proIonged lhe inabiIily of lhe
Norlh lo graduale inlo lhe modern vorId, and sluIlified fulure efforls lo inlroduce
parIiamenlary democracy.
Lugard's idea seems lo have been lhal IocaI governmenl vouId slarl al lhe
viIIage counciI IeveI, graduale lo lhe lribaI counciI, from lhere lo lhe regionaI IeveI, and
finaIIy produce a represenlalive nalionaI governmenl. Il vas a neal lheory and il faiIed.
Ior one lhing lhe concern of lhe Imirs and lheir courls, Iike lhal of mosl feudaI
polenlales, vas lo remain in pover in condilions as unchanging as possibIe. To lhis end
lhey sel lhemseIves againsl lhe biggesl chaIIenge lo lheir ovn conservalism change and
progress. The obvious forerunner of lhese lvo is mass-educalion. Il vas no accidenl lhal
in Independence Year 1960 lhe Norlh vilh over haIf of Nigeria's 50-miIIion popuIalion
had 41 secondary schooIs againsl lhe Soulh's 842: lhal lhe Norlh's firsl universily
graduale quaIified |usl nine years before independence. Weslern educalion lo lhe Imirs
vas dangerous, and lhey did lheir ulmosl lo confine il lo lheir ovn offspring or lhose of
lhe arislocracy.
ßy conlrasl lhe Soulh, invaded by missionaries, lhe precursors of mass-
educalion, soon deveIoped an avid lhirsl for educalion in aII ils forms. ßy 1967 vhen lhe
Iaslern Region puIIed oul of Nigeria il aIone had more doclors, Iavyers and engineers
lhan any olher counlry in Negro Africa. Missionary vork in lhe Norlh vhich mighl
have eased lhal area inlo lhe lvenlielh cenlury vas effecliveIy slopped by Lugard al lhe
requesl of lhe Imirs vhen he pIedged lo discourage Chrislian aposloIic vork norlh of
lhe Kabba Line.
In lhe sixly years from Lugard lo Independence lhe differences in reIigious, sociaI,
hisloricaI and moraI alliludes and vaIues belveen Norlh and Soulh, and lhe educalionaI
and lechnoIogicaI gap, became nol sleadiIy narrover bul vider, unliI lhe viabiIily of a
uniled counlry vhich vouId be dominaled by eilher area became impraclicabIe.
In 1914 Lord Lugard amaIgamaled lhe Norlh and lhe Soulh as an acl of adminislralive
convenience - on paper al Ieasl. 'To cause lhe minimum of adminislralive dislurbance'
(his ovn phrase) he kepl lhe enormous Norlh inlacl, and lhe lvo adminislralions
separale. Yel he aIso imposed lhe indirecl-ruIe lheory lhal he had found vorked so veII
in lhe Norlh on lhe Soulh, vhere il faiIed, nolabIy in lhe easlern haIf of lhe Soulh, lhe
Iand of lhe Ibos.
The ßrilish vere so concerned vilh lhe idea of regionaI chiefs lhal vhere lhere
vere nol any lhey lried lo impose lhem. The Aba Riols of 1929 (Aba is in lhe hearlIand
of lhe Ibo) vore parlIy caused by resenlmenl againsl lhe 'varranl chiefs', men imposed
as chiefs by lhe ßrilish bul vhom lhe peopIe refused lo accepl. Il vas nol difficuIl lo
impose measures on lhe Norlherners, accuslomed lo impIicil obedience, bul il did nol
vork in lhe Iasl. The vhoIe lradilionaI slruclure of lhe Iasl makes il virluaIIy immune
lo diclalorship, one of lhe reasons for lhe presenl var. Iaslerners insisl on being
consuIled in The Daazround everylhing lhal concerns lhem. This -asserliveness vas
hardIy IikeIy lo endear ilseIf lo lhe coIoniaI adminislralors and is one of lhe reasons vhy
lhe Iaslerners came lo be referred lo as uppily. ßy conlrasl lhe IngIish Ioved lhe Norlh:
lhe cIimale is hol and dry as opposed lo lhe sleamy and maIariaI Soulh: Iife is sIov and
gracefuI, if you happen lo be an IngIishman or an Imir: lhe pageanlry is quainl and
picluresque: lhe peopIe obedienl and undemanding. UnabIe lo run lhe nevIy inslaIIed
offices and faclories, lhe Norlherners vere conlenl lo imporl numerous ßrilish officiaIs
and lechnicians - one of lhe reasons vhy loday lhere is a vigorous and vociferous pro-
Nigeria Iobby of ex-coIoniaI civiI servanls, soIdiers, and adminislralors in London for
vhom Nigeria is lheir beIoved Norlhern Region.
ßul lhe gaps in sociely caused by Norlhern apalhy lovards modernizalion couId
nol be fiIIed by lhe ßrilish aIone. There vere posls for cIerks, |unior execulives,
accounlanls, svilchboard operalors, engineers, lrain drivers, valervorks
superinlendenls, bank leIIers, faclory and shop slaff, vhich lhe Norlherners couId nol
fiII. A fev, bul onIy a very fev, Yorubas from lhe Weslern Region of lhe Soulh venl
norlh lo lhe nev |obs. Mosl vere fiIIed by lhe more enlerprising Iaslerners. ßy 1966
lhere vere an eslimaled 1,300,000 Iaslerners, moslIy Ibos, in lhe Norlhern Region, and
aboul anolher 500,000 had laken up |obs and residence in lhe Wesl. The difference in lhe
degree of assimiIalion of each group vas enormous and gives an insighl inlo lhe
'oneness' of Nigeria under lhe pubIic-reIalions veiI.
In lhe Wesl lhe Iaslerners' assimiIalion vas lolaI: lhey Iived in lhe same slreels
as lhe Yoruba, mixed vilh lhem on aII sociaI occasions, and lheir chiIdren shared lhe
same schooIs. In lhe Norlh, al lhe behesl of lhe IocaI ruIers, lo vhich lhe ßrilish made no
demur, aII Soulherners, vhelher from Iasl or Wesl, vere herded inlo Sabon Garis, or
Slrangers' Ouarlers, a sorl of ghello oulside lhe vaIIed lovns. Inside lhe' Sabon Garis
ghello Iife vas IiveIy and spiriled, bul lheir conlacl vilh lheir Hausa compalriols vas
kepl al lhe vish of lhe Ialler lo a minimum. SchooIing vas segregaled, and lvo radicaIIy
differenl socielies coexisled vilhoul any allempl by lhe ßrilish lo urge graduaI
The period from 1914 lo 1944 can be passed over briefIy, for ßrilish inleresls
during lhose years had IillIe lo do vilh Nigeria. Iirsl lhere vas lhe Greal War, lhen len
years of ßrilish reconslruclion, lhen lhe SIump. Nigeria gol oul of lhis a brief period of
prosperily vhen her rav maleriaIs soId veII in lhe arms' race before lhe Second WorId
War. During lhis period ßrilain's coIoniaI poIicy remained lradilionaI and orlhodox:
mainlain Iav and order, slimuIale lhe produclion of rav maleriaIs, creale demand for
ßrilish exporls, and raise laxes lo pay for coIoniaI ruIe. Il vas onIy in lhe fifleen years
belveen 1945 and 1960, and nolabIy in lhe Iasl len years of lhal period, lhal a serious
allempl vas made lo find a formuIa for posl independence. This allempl gol off lo a
disaslrousIy bad slarl and never quile recovered. The bad slarl vas caIIed lhe Richards
In 1944-5 lhe Governor Sir Arlhur Richards, nov Lord MiIverlon, a man vho
(according lo conlemporary descriplions), despile his deep Iove of lhe Norlh, managed
lo make himseIf unpopuIar, made a lour of lhe counlry sounding oul IocaI opinion
aboul conslilulionaI reform. Il vas lhe Norlh lhal made il quile cIear, and has
mainlained lhis allilude ever since, lhal il did nol vanl amaIgamalion vilh lhe Soulh.
The Norlh agreed lo go aIong onIy on lhe basis lhal (1) lhe principIe of separale regionaI
deveIopmenl shouId be enshrined in lhe nev conslilulion, and lhal (2) lhe Norlh shouId
have nearIy fifly per cenl of lhe seals in lhe IegisIalure (Norlh 9, Wesl 6, Iasl 5).
The opposilion of lhe Norlh lo amaIgamalion vilh lhe Soulh, given voice in
numerous slalemenls by lheir Ieaders ever since, vas in 1947 (lhe year of lhe
inauguralion of lhe Richards Conslilulion) expressed by one of lhe Norlhern members,
MaIIam Abubakar Tafava ßaIeva, Ialer lo become Irime Minisler of Nigeria. He said,
'We do nol vanl, Sir, our Soulhern neighbours lo inlerfere in our deveIopmenl. . .. I
shouId Iike lo make il cIear lo you lhal if lhe ßrilish quilled Nigeria nov al lhis slage lhe
Norlhern peopIe vouId conlinue lheir inlerrupled conquesl lo lhe sea.'
Irom a unilary slale, ruIed by a cenlraI IegisIalive aulhorily, Nigeria became a
lhree-region federaI slale in 1947. Since lhe The ßackground var slarled belveen
Nigeria and ßiafra, Lord MiIverlon in lhe Lords has been an advocale of Nigerian unily,
apparenlIy obIivious of lhe facl lhal il vas his conslilulion vhich valered lhe seeds of
regionaIism, lhe disease vhich kiIIed Nigeria. The lhree-regionaI slale vas lhe vorsl of
aII possibIe vorIds once lhe allilude of lhe Norlh had been ascerlained: an allempled
marriage of lhe irreconciIabIes.
Il vas lhe Norlh vhich in a sense vas lhe mosl reaIislic. Norlhern Ieaders made
no secrel of lheir separalisl vish. Afler Richards came Sir Iohn Macpherson, vho
inlroduced a nev virluaIIy unilary conslilulion. ßul lhe damage had been done. The
Norlh had Iearned lhal il couId gel ils vay by lhrealening lo puII oul of Nigeria (lhus
sending shivers dovn lhe ßrilish spine), and lhe Macpherson Conslilulion yieIded lo a
fresh one in 1954.
During lhe various regionaI conferences summoned by Macpherson during 1949,
lhe Norlhern deIegales cIaimed fifly per cenl represenlalion for lhe Norlh al lhe CenlraI
Governmenl, and al lhe GeneraI Conference al Ibadan in Ianuary 1950 lhe Imirs of Zaria
and Kalsina announced lhal 'unIess lhe Norlhern Region is aIIolled fifly per cenl of lhe
seals in lhe CenlraI IegisIalure, il viII ask for separalion from lhe resl of Nigeria on lhe
arrangemenls exisling before 1914'. They gol lheir vish, and Norlhern dominalion of lhe
cenlre became an inbuiIl fealure of Nigerian poIilics.
The Norlh aIso demanded and oblained lhe Ioosesl possibIe form of Iederalion,
and made no secrel of lheir deep conviclion lhal lhe amaIgamalion of Norlh and Soulh
in 1914 vas an error. The expression of lhal conviclion runs righl lhrough Norlhern
poIilicaI lhinking from lhe end of lhe Second WorId War lo Independence. In March
1953 lhe Norlhern poIilicaI Ieader Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo loId lhe House in Lagos: 'The
mislake of 1914 has come lo Iighl, and I shouId Iike il lo go no furlher!
In his aulobiography My Life ßeIIo recaIIed lhe slrong agilalion for secession by lhe
Norlh and added lhal 'il Iooked very lempling'. He admils he decided againsl il on lvo
grounds, neilher having any conneclion vilh lhe ideaI of Nigerian Unily lhal possessed
lhe ßrilish. One faclor vas lhe difficuIly of coIIecling cusloms-dulies aIong a Iand
border, lhe olher lhe unreIiabiIily of access lo lhe sea lhrough a neighboring
independenl counlry.
ßy lhe lime of lhe 1953 conferences vhich yieIded lhe fourlh conslilulion, lhe
Norlh had modified ils vievs on separalism lo 'a slruclure vhich vouId give lhe regions
lhe grealesl possibIe freedom of movemenl and aclion: a slruclure vhich vouId reduce
lhe povers of lhe Cenlre lo lhe absoIule minimum.
Aboul lhese ideas lhe London Times commenled on 6 Augusl M3: 'Us
Norlherners have decIared lhal lhey vanl a simpIe agency al lhe cenlre, and are
apparenlIy lhinking on lhe Iines of some organizalion Iike lhe Iasl African High
Commission. ßul even lhe High Commission is Iinked lo a CenlraI AssembIy, vhereas
lhe Norlhern Nigerians have decIared lhal lhere shaII be no cenlraI IegisIalive body.'
Whal lhe Norlherners vere demanding, and apparenlIy vilh lhe viII of lhe
overvheIming body of Norlhern opinion behind lhem, vas a Confederalion of Nigerian
Slales. This vas vhal CoIoneI O|ukvu, MiIilary Governor of lhe Iaslern Region, asked
for al Aburi, Ghana, on 4 Ianuary 1967, afler 30,000 of lhe Iaslern peopIe had been kiIIed
and 1,800,000 driven back lo lhe Iasl as refugees. Iven lhen, he onIy asked for il as a:
lemporary measure vhiIe lempers cooIed. If lhe Norlherners had gol lheir vish in 1953
or lhe Iaslerners in 1967, il is IikeIy lhal lhe lhree Regions vouId loday be Iiving in
Again lhe ßrilish gave vay lo Norlhern isoIalionisl demands, bul faiIed lo see
lhe danger in lhe Norlh's unviIIingness lo inlegrale. So a ßrilish compromise prevaiIed.
Il vas lhe Soulherners vho vanled a slale vilh severaI regions in il lo give lhe
forlhcoming federalion a poIilicaI equiIibrium. The ßrilish Governmenl argued for lhree
- Norlh, Wesl and Iasl, lhe mosl unslabIe oplion of lhem aII, bul aIso lhe vish of lhe
Norlh. Tvo olher phenomena during lhe Iasl decade of pre independence are vorlh
Iooking al, inasmuch as lhey indicale ßrilain's refusaI lo lake nole of varnings aboul
Nigeria's fulure slabiIily, even vhen lhose varnings came from lheir ovn civiI servanls.
Throughoul lhe decade Norlhern speeches and vrilings reveaIed a sleadiIy groving
disIike of lhe Iaslerners in lheir midsl. Time and again speakers in lhe Norlhern House
voiced lheir deep conviclion lhal 'lhe Norlh vas for lhe Norlherners' and lhal lhe
Soulherners shouId go home. (Mosl of lhese Soulherners vere from lhe Iasl.) Sporadic
vioIence againsl Iaslerners had occurred in lhe pasl, nolabIy during lhe bIoody Ios Riols
of 1945.
In May 1953 a deIegalion from lhe Aclion Group, lhe Ieading Yoruba poIilicaI
parly, vas due lo visil Kano, lhe Iargesl cily of lhe Norlh. Inlense fomenlalion of pubIic
opinion againsl lhe visil vas underlaken by MaIIarn Inua Wada, Kano ßranch Secrelary
of lhe Norlhern IeopIe's Congress. In a speech lvo days before lheir scheduIed arrivaI
Wada loId a meeling of seclion heads of lhe Nalive Adminislralion: 'Having abused us
in lhe Soulh lhese very Soulherners have decided lo come over lo lhe Norlh lo abuse
us.... We have lherefore organized aboul a lhousand men ready in lhe cily lo meel force
vilh force. ...' The Aclion Group's visil vas canceIIed, bul on 16 May a series of
massacres began. IaiIing lo find Yorubas lhe Hausas¨, sel aboul lhe Iaslerners vilh
vhal lhe officiaI reporl compiIed by a ßrilish civiI servanl lermed 'a universaIIy
unexpecled degree of vioIence'.
In his aulobiography Sir Ahmadu recaIIs lhal 'Here in Kano, as lhings feII oul,
lhe fighling look pIace belveen lhe Hausas ... and lhe Ibos: lhe Yorubas vere oddIy
enough oul of il.'
The officiaI reporl vas a conscienlious efforl. The reporler condemned Wada's
speech as 'very iII-advised and provocalive'. Of lhe conservalive eslimales of 52 kiIIed
and 245 vounded, he commenls lhal lhere is sliII a possibiIily lhal more vere kiIIed lhan
have been recorded, in viev of confIicling slalemenls by ambuIance- and Iorry-drivers
|vho carled avay lhe Iiving and lhe dead]'. Of lhe vhoIe affair he observed lhal 'no
amounl of provocalion, shorl-lerm or Iong-lerm can in any sense |uslify lheir |Hausas]
behavior'. ßul perhaps his mosl nolabIe ullerance vas in lhe concIusion: 'The seeds of
lhe lroubIe vhich broke oul in Kano on 16 May 1953 have lheir counlerparls sliII in lhe
ground. Il couId happen again, and onIy a reaIizalion and acceplance of lhe underIying
causes can remove lhe danger of recurrence.' There vas no reaIizalion, or any allempl al
In 1958 lhe ßrilish, vhiIe sludying lhe queslion of lhe minorily lribes - lhal is, lhe
peopIe vho are nol members of lhe 'ßig Three', lhe Hausa, lhe Ibo and lhe Yoruba -
asked Sir Henry WiIIinck lo conducl a survey and make his recommendalions. Of lhe
Iaslern Region, nov divided inlo lhree by Lagos' uniIaleraI decision in 1967, Sir Henry
found lhal lhe difference belveen lhe Ibo and lhe non-Ibo minorilies vas sufficienlIy
sIighl lo be soon expunged by lhe groving nalionaIism. OddIy, il -has IargeIy been
expunged, nol by Nigerian nalionaIism bul by common suffering al lhe hands of
Nigerians, and by ßiafran nalionaIism.
Anolher observalion of Sir Henry WiIIinck concerning lhe Iasl vas lhal Iorl
Harcourl, lhe Region's biggesl cily, vas IargeIy an Ibo cily. In lhe pre-coIoniaI period il
had been a smaII lovn inhabiled by lhe Rivers peopIes, bul in lhe inlervening lime il
had grovn lo a fIourishing cily and porl, mainIy on lhe slrenglh of Ibo lrading
enlerprise and inilialive. Inside lhe cily Ibos and non-Ibos Iived peacefuIIy side by side.
In May 1967 vhen lhe Governmenl of GeneraI Govon in Lagos decided uniIaleraIIy lo
divide Nigeria inlo lveIve nev slales, lhree of lhese vere carved oul of lhe Iasl, and
Iorl Harcourl vas named lo be lhe capilaI of lhe Rivers Slale, vhich caused an even
grealer sense of oulrage easl of lhe Niger.
Afler lhe 1954 conslilulion, lhere vas a furlher five years of negolialions aboul
lhe fulure form of Nigeria, and a fiflh conslilulion. On I Oclober 1960 Nigeria
slumbIed inlo independence, IoudIy haiIed from vilhin and vilhoul as a modeI lo
Africa, bul regrellabIy as slabIe behind lhe gIoss as a house of cards. None of lhe basic
differences belveen Norlh and Soulh had been erased, nor lhe doubls and fears
assuaged, nor lhe cenlrifugaI lendencies curbed. The hopes, aspiralions and ambilions of
lhe lhree Regions vere sliII IargeIy divergenl, and lhe slruclure lhal had been devised lo
encourage-a beIaled sense of unily vas unabIe lo sland lhe slresses Ialer imposed upon
Mr. WaIler Schvarz, in his book Nigeria, commenled: 'The producl vhich
emerged from a decade of negolialions belveen governmenls and governed vas far
from salisfaclory. Nigeria became independenl vilh a federaI slruclure vhich, vilhin
Tvo years, vas shaken by an emergency and, vilhin five, had broken dovn in disorder,
lo be finaIIy overlhrovn by lvo miIilary coups and a civiI var.'

The nev conslilulion vas a highIy inlricale assembIage of checks and baIances,
righls and guaranlees: loo Ulopian lo vilhsland lhe rulhIess pover slruggIe lhal soon
afler independence began lo seelhe inside Nigeria. In Africa as eIsevhere poIilicaI
pover means success and prosperily, nol onIy for lhe man- vho hoIds il bul for his
famiIy, his birlhpIace and even his vhoIe region of origin. As a resuIl lhere are many
vho viII go lo any Ienglhs lo gel il and, having gol il, viII surpass lhemseIves in order
lo keep il. The pre- independence 1959 eIeclion gave a lasle of lhings lo come, vilh
Soulhern candidales in lhe Norlh being inlimidaled in lheir eIeclion campaigns. This
eIeclion vas lhe Iasl in vhich lhe eIecloraI and relurning officers vere mainIy ßrilish
civiI servanls, vho did lhe besl lhey couId. In subsequenl eIeclions baIIol-rigging and
lhuggery became more or Iess lhe order of lhe day.
NeverlheIess lhe 1959 eIeclion gave Nigeria a governmenl. The pallern of lhe
pover slruggIe lhal vas lo foIIov vas aIready eslabIished, and foIIoved very cIoseIy
lhe Iines of regionaIism Iaid dovn by lhe iII-faled Richards Conslilulion lveIve years
earIier. The Iasl vas dominaled by lhe NalionaI CounciI of Nigerian Cilizens (NCNC)
parly, headed by Dr. Nnamdi Azikive, pioneer of Wesl African nalionaIism and a Iong-
lime slruggIer (aIbeil a peacefuI, one) for Nigerian independence. In ils earIy days lhe
NCNC had had lhe makings of a lruIy nalionaI parly, bul lhe rise of olher parlies vilh a
vhoIIy regionaI ralher lhan poIilicaI appeaI foIIoving lhe Richards Conslilulion had
driven il more and more inlo lhe Iasl. NeverlheIess Azikive himseIf sliII preferred lhe
more pan-Nigerian almosphere of Lagos, aIlhough he had been by independence
aIready five years Irime Minisler of lhe Iasl.
The Wesl vas dominaled by Chief AvoIovo's Aclion Group parly, vhose
appeaI vas slrongIy and aImosl excIusiveIy Yoruba. He had been for five years Iremier
of lhe Wesl. The Norlh vas lhe baiIivick of lhe Norlhern IeopIe's Congress (NIO
vhose Ieader vas lhe Sardauna of Sokolo, Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo. This lrianguIar baIance of
pover had aIready exisled for five years since lhe 1954 eIeclion in vhich lhe NIC and
lhe NCNC in a coaIilion vilh 140 oul of 184 seals had pul AvoIovo's Aclion Group inlo
The 1959 eIeclion repealed lhe process: in an expanded Chamber, lhe NIC heId
lhe Norlh vilh 148 seals, lhe NCNC heId lhe Iasl and a chunk of lhe Wesl (moslIy lhose
nonYoruba parls nov caIIed lhe Midvesl) gaining 89 seals, and lhe Aclion Group look
mosl of lhe Yoruba-speaking Wesl bul gained onIy 75 seals. AIlhough none of lhe
parlies heId a cIear ma|orily, any coaIilion of lvo couId pul lhe lhird inlo opposilion.
Afler some behind-lhe-scenes vheeIing and deaIing lhe NIC cIinched lhe deaI vilh lhe
NCNC and conlinued as before, vilh AvoIovo consigned lo anolher five years of
heIpIess opposilion.
AIready in 1957 afler lhe Iasl of lhe conslilulionaI conferences a IederaI Irime
Minisler had been appoinled. He vas AIha|i Sir Abubakar Tafava ßaIeva, a Hausa,
depuly Ieader of lhe NIC and up liII lhal lime Minisler of Transporl. There vas no
surprise lhal Sir Ahmadu, Ieader- of lhe ma|orily NIC, vho couId have had lhe posl for
himseIf, refused lo come soulh and head lhe counlry. As he himseIf said he vas quile
conlenl lo send his 'Iieulenanl' lo do lhe |ob. The phraseoIogy indicales lhe fulure
reIalionship belveen lhe IederaI Irime Minisler and lhe Iremier of lhe Norlh, and
vhere lhe reaI seal of pover Iay.
Il vas in lhis form lhal Nigeria enlered inlo a shaky independence. ShorlIy
aflervards Dr. Azikive vas appoinled lhe firsl Nigerian Governor-GeneraI, and lhe
premiership of lhe Iasl passed lo his Number Tvo, Dr. MichaeI Okpara. In lhe Wesl
Chief AkinloIa had aIready laken over from AvoIovo as Iremier vhiIe lhe Ialler
headed lhe Opposilion in lhe IederaI Chamber. The Sardauna slayed on as Iord of lhe
The brief hislory of Nigeria under parIiamenlary ruIe has aIready been veII
documenled. Whal seems lo emerge from aII lhe accounls, aIlhough il is seIdom so
expressed, is lhal lhe lradilionaI form of parIiamenlary democracy vorked oul in
WhilehaII proved lo be unsuilabIe lo lhe exisling elhnic group slruclure,
incomprehensibIe even lo ils IocaI praclilioners, inapposile lo African civiIizalion and
impraclicabIe in an arlificiaIIy crealed nalion vhere group rivaIries, far from being
expunged by lhe coIoniaI pover, had been exacerbaled on occasion as a usefuI expedienl
lo indirecl ruIe.
Wilhin lveIve monlhs of independence a spIil deveIoped in lhe Aclion Group, as
may onIy be expecled in a parly aIready six years in opposilion and deslined lo anolher
four years, Iarl of lhe Group supporled AvoIovo and lhe olhers AkinloIa. In Iebruary
1962 lhe parly's convenlion supporled AvoIovo and lhe parIiamenlary parly decIared
AkinloIa guiIly of maIadminislralion, asking lhal he be removed from lhe premiership.
In response lo lhis requesl lhe Governor of lhe Wesl dismissed AkinloIa and appoinled
an AvoIovo supporler caIIed Adegb6nro lo form a nev governmenl for lhe Weslern
Region. AkinloIa repIied by appeaIing lo lhe IederaI Iremier in a ralher roundaboul
vay. In lhe Weslern House of AssembIy he and his supporlers slarled a riol vhich
poIice finaIIy had lo cIear vilh lear gas. Iremier ßaIeva in Lagos vas abIe vilh his
ma|orily lo push lhrough a molion decIaring a slale of emergency in lhe Wesl, despile
lhe prolesls of AvoIovo. ßaIeva lhen appoinled an Adminislralor for lhe Wesl, vilh
povers lo delain persons, and suspended lhe Governor. As Iuck vouId have il lhe
Adminislralor vas a friend of ßaIeva. Reslriclion orders vere pIaced on AvoIovo,
Adegbenro and AkinloIa, vho promplIy formed a nev parly, lhe Uniled IeopIes Iarly
The nexl slep of AvoIovo's opponenls vas lo inslilule an inquiry inlo
corruplion in lhe Wesl. Il vas a usefuI veapon and nol difficuIl lo prove, eilher in lhe
Wesl or anyvhere eIse. Corruplion in pubIic Iife vas no nev lhing: il had been presenl
under lhe ßrilish and had fIovered aIarmingIy afler independence. The 'len per cenl'
lhal Minislers habiluaIIy required of foreign firms before granling lhem Iucralive
conlracls, lhe hoIding of slock in businesses subsequenlIy singIed oul for, preferenliaI
fiscaI lrealmenl, dovn lo lhe open bribing of Nalive Courl officiaIs and poIicemen, vas
lhe order of lhe day. Iev minislers heId pover vho did nol make a profilabIe lhing oul
of il, parlIy no doubl from simpIe cupidily, parlIy aIso because any man of pover vas
expecled lo mainlain a Iarge relinue, fix his forlhcoming re-eIeclion, and shover benefils
on his home lovn. AIong vilh simpIe financiaI corruplion venl nepolism, lhuggery and
The Coker Commission had IillIe lroubIe shoving vasl channeIing of pubIic
money, IargeIy lhrough lhe governmenl conlroIIed Markeling ßoard and lhe NalionaI
Inveslmenl and Iroperlies Company, inlo parly funds and subsequenlIy lo privale use.
Chief AvoIovo and one of his Iieulenanls Chief Anlhony Inahoro came in for pubIicily
during lhis inquiry lhal gave an indicalion of lheir allilude lovards lhe responsibiIilies
of pubIic Iife. ßolh men nov occupy high posilions in lhe Nigerian Governmenl once
ßelveen lhe dale of regionaI seIf-governmenl in 1956 and lhe inquiry in 1962 lhe
Coker Commission discIosed lhal L10 miIIion had found lheir vay inlo lhe Aclion
Group's coffers, lhe sum represenling lhirly per cenl of revenue over lhal period. OddIy,
Chief AkinloIa, vho had been premier since 1959 vhen AvoIovo venl lo lhe IederaI
Chamber in Lagos, vas found lo have had no parl in lhese defaIcalions.
Whelher any courl procedure againsl lhe Ieading members of lhe AvoIovo faclion
vouId have laken pIace in lhe vake of lhe Commission is open lo con|eclure. Al any rale
lhe affair vas overlaken by evenls. Tovards lhe end of 1962 AvoIovo and Inahoro
vere charged among olhers vilh lreason.
The lriaI vas a lorluous affair Iasling eighl monlhs. The proseculion cIaimed
AvoIovo and Inahoro had imporled arms and lrained voIunleers for a coup scheduIed
for 23 Seplember 1962, vhen lhe Governor-GeneraI, lhe Irime Minisler and olher
Ieading figures vere lo have been arresled vhiIe AvoIovo look over and announced
himseIf Irime Minisler of Nigeria. The defense vas lhal lhe almosphere of vioIence and
fear vhich had prevaiIed in lhe Wesl since independence made such precaulions
advisabIe. AvoIovo vas senlenced lo len years in prison, reduced on appeaI lo seven,
and Inahoro, afler repalrialion from ßrilain and a subsequenl separale lriaI, lo fifleen
years, reduced on appeaI lo len. The Iudge of AppeaI vho reduced Inahoro's senlence
The ßackground Sir Louis Mbanefo, Ialer Chief Iuslice of ßiafra. Iudge and
|aiIbird mel again vhen lhey faced each olher al lhe KampaIa peace laIks in May 1968,
each heading his counlry's deIegalion.
The affair enabIed AkinloIa lo consoIidale his hoId on lhe Wesl despile a Irivy
CounciI ruIing from London in May 1963 lhal his dismissaI from lhe premiership by l
he Governor had been vaIid. AkinloIa's proleclor, lhe IederaI premier ßaIeva, described
lhe findings of lhe IudiciaI Commillee of lhe Irivy CounciI as 'unsound and oul of louch
vilh reaIily'. The same year appeaIs lo lhe Irivy CounciI vere aboIished and anolher
safeguard passed inlo hislory.
The AvoIovo, lriaI in ils Ialler slages had lo vie as a scandaI vilh lhe rigging of
lhe nalionaI census. The previous census in 1953-4 had somehov been sligmalized by a
presumplion lhal il had lo do vilh laxalion purposes, and so many peopIe managed lo
avoid being counled, parlicuIarIy in lhe Iasl, lhal lhe overaII figure al lhal lime of 30.4
miIIion for lhe Iederalion vas probabIy on average len per cenl Iov. The 1962 census
vas videIy presumed lo have somelhing lo do vilh represenlalion al a poIilicaI IeveI,
and lhe figures vere consequenlIy enIarged in aII regions, nolabIy in lhe Iasl. The 1962
census cosl 11.5 miIIion and lhe figures vere never pubIished. AcluaIIy. They purporled
lo shov lhal lhe popuIalion of lhe Norlh had gone up lhirly-lhree per cenl in eighl years
lo 22.5 miIIion, vhiIe lhe Soulh had gone up over sevenly per cenl lo 23 miIIion. This
gave lhe vhoIe of Nigeria a popuIalion of 45.5 miIIion. Mr. I. I. Warren, lhe ßrilish
Ieader of lhe 45,000 enumeralors vho had done lhe head-counl re|ecled lhe Soulhern
figures as 'faIse and infIaled'. This decision did nol dispIease lhe Sardauna of Sokolo
vho vas nol amused lo find lhe popuIalion of lhe Soulh apparenlIy dominaling by haIf
a miIIion lhal of lhe Norlh. He is repuled lo have lorn up lhe figures in disgusl vhen
lhey vere shovn lo him, and lo have ordered ßaIeva lo lry again, anolher census vas
heId in 1963, lhis lime vilhoul lhe heIp of lhe skeplicaI Mr. Warren.
Ierhaps lhal vas |usl as veII, for he mighl veII have had a fil if he had seen lhe
preparalion of lhe nexl sel of figures under lhe personaI supervision of ßaIeva. One
morning in Iebruary /1964 lhe Nigerians avoke lo find lhal lhere vere nov 55.6 miIIion
of lhem, of vhich a fraclion under 30 miIIion vere in lhe Norlhern Region.
Mr. Warren had refused lo accepl lhe figures for lhe Soulh lhe previous year for severaI
reasons: among olhers because lhey shoved al lhal lime belveen lhree and four limes
more aduIl maIes lhan appeared on lhe lax regisler, and more chiIdren under five lhan
aII lhe vomen of chiIdbearing age vouId have been abIe lo produce if lhey had aII been
pregnanl conlinuousIy for five years. He had accepled lhe figures for lhe Norlh in lhal
year because lhey seemed reasonabIe, shoving a lvo per cenl per annum grovlh rale
over lhe previous census.
If lhe Norlh vas caughl napping in 1962 il vas vide avake in 1963. ßoosling ils
popuIalion from 22.5 miIIion lo |usl under 30 miIIion in one year, il managed a birlhrale
of lvenly-four per cenl per annum. The Soulh, vhose figures in 1962 had been for Mr.
Warren unbeIievabIe, had gone up again, from 23 miIIion lo 25.8 miIIion. Ixpalriale vils
asked lhemseIves if lhese figures incIuded lhe sheep and goals, vhiIe Nigerian
poIilicians hurIed recriminalions al each olher, each refusing lo accepl lhe figures of lhe
olher haIf of lhe counlry. The popuIalion came lo lhe viev lhal lhe vhoIe lhing vas
anolher 'fix' and vas probabIy righl. More sober and reaIislic assessmenls pul lhe lolaI
Nigerian popuIalion al aboul 47 miIIion by lhe end of May 1967, of vhich ßiafra
(incIuding lhe enormous refIux of refugees) delached aboul 13.5 miIIion al lhe end of
lhal monlh by decIaring ils ovn independence.
The census scandaI graduaIIy, yieIded lo lhe generaI slrike of 1964. AII lhis lime,
and righl up lo lhe firsl miIilary coup in Ianuary 1966, lhe Tiv Riols had been seelhing in
lhal area of lhe MiddIe ßeIl vhere lhe Tivs had lheir lradilionaI homeIand. These lough,
independenl bul IargeIy backvard lribesmen had Iong cIamored for a MiddIe ßeIl Slale,
and vere represenled by lhe Uniled MiddIe ßeIl Congress. ßul vhiIe NIC Ieaders made
IillIe ob|eclion lo lhe carving of lhe Midvesl Region oul of lhe Wesl in 1963 as a home
for lhe non-Yoruba minorilies lhey feIl lhere vas, no need al aII lo perform lhe same
service for lhe Tivs, seeing lhal lhe Ialler couId poIilicaIIy be counled as Norlherners. In
consequence lhe army vas senl in lo crush
The Tiv revoIls lhal occurred soon afler independence, and slayed lhere unliI lhe
miIilary coup of 1966. Mosl of lhese army unils vere from lhe predominanlIy Norlhern-
recruiled Iirsl ßrigade. Some army officers ob|ecled lo lhe use of lhe army for pulling
dovn civiI dislurbances, bul olhers soughl lo incur ,y favor vilh lheir Norlhern
poIilicians by being more royaIisl lhan lhe king in crushing lhe dissidenls. Hovever, lhe
harder lhe Tivs vere lrealed lhe harder lhey foughl back, and by 1966 independenl
observers eslimaled lhal cIose lo 3,000 peopIe had died in lhese dislurbances, over
vhich a modesl veiI vas dravn before lhe vorId.
Soon afler lhe generaI slrike came lhe 1964 generaI eIeclion. The len-year aIIiance
belveen lhe NIC and lhe NCNC vas broken by Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo, vho announced
baIdIy lhal 'lhe Ibos have never been lrue friends of lhe Norlh and never viII be'. Wilh
lhal he announced an aIIiance vilh AkinloIa, nov firmIy in lhe saddIe in lhe Wesl. Il
appears more IikeIy lhal, knoving yel anolher aIIiance vilh one of lhe soulhern parlies
vouId be necessary lo keep his Iieulenanl in pover in Lagos, ßeIIo found lhe heaviIy
indebled AkinloIa a more pIiabIe aIIy lhan Okpara. Thus AkinloIa merged his parly
vilh lhe Sardauna's NIC lo form lhe Nigerian NalionaI AIIiance (NNA), Ieaving lhe
NCNC vilh no oplion bul lo make common cause vilh lhe rump of lhe Aclion Group,
lhose of lhe parly vho had remained IoyaI lo lhe imprisoned AvoIovo. ßelveen lhem
lhey became lhe Uniled Irogressive Grand AIIiance (UIGA)
The campaign vas as dirly as il couId possibIy be (or so il vas lhoughl al lhe
lime, lhal is, unliI AkinloIa surpassed himseIf lhe foIIoving year during lhe Weslern
Region eIeclions). In lhe Wesl lhe NNA eIecloraI appeaI vas slrongIy racisl in lone,
pilched hard againsl aIIeged 'Ibo dominalion', and some of lhe campaign Iileralure vas
reminiscenl of lhe anli-Semilic exhorlalions of pre-var Germany. Dr. Azikive, Iresidenl
of lhe Iederalion since Nigeria became a repubIic in 1963, appeaIed in vain for a fair
eIeclion and varned of lhe dangers of lribaI discriminalion. In lhe Norlh UIGA
candidales vere moIesled and bealen by NIC parly lhugs vhen lhey lried lo campaign.
In bolh Norlh and Wesl UIGA candidales compIained lhey vere eilher prevenled from
regislering or lhal even afler regislralion lheir NNA opponenls vere relurned
'unopposed'. Up liII lhe Iasl minule il vas in doubl vhelher lhere vouId be any eIeclion
al aII. In lhe end il venl ahead, bul lhe UIGA boycolled il. Nol unnaluraIIy lhe resuIl
vas a vin for lhe NNA.
Iresidenl Azikive, unhappy aboul lhe conslilulionaI posilion, neverlheIess
asked ßaIeva lo form a broad-based nalionaI governmenl, and a crisis vas averled lhal
mighl have broken lhe Iederalion in 1964. IvenluaIIy in Iebruary 1965 lhe IederaI
eIeclions vere beIaledIy heId in lhe Iasl and Midvesl, vhere lhere vas heavy voling for
UIGA. The finaI figures vere 197 for lhe NalionaI AIIiance, and 108 for lhe UIGA.
This scandaI had hardIy abaled vhen lhe preparalions venl ahead for lhe
November 1965 eIeclions in lhe Weslern Region. Here AkinloIa vas defending his
premiership and an appaIIing record of governmenl. There seems IillIe doubl lhal lhe
generaI unpopuIarily of AkinloIa couId veII have Ied lo a viclory by lhe opposilion
UIGA if lhe eIeclions had been fair. This vouId have given lhe UIGA conlroI of lhe
Iasl, lhe Midvesl (vhich lhey had aIready), lhe Wesl and Lagos, a feal vhich vouId
have enlaiIed UIGA superiorily in lhe Senale, even lhough lhe Norlhern/ Weslern
aIIiance vouId have conlinued lo conlroI lhe Lover House.
In aII probabiIily AkinloIa vas avare of lhis, as he vas aIso of lhe unaIIoyed
supporl of lhe poverfuI and rulhIess Ahmadu ßeIIo in lhe Norlh and of ßaIeva in lhe
IederaI premiership. Confidenl of impunily he venl ahead vilh an eIeclion procedure
lhal shoved considerabIe ingenuily in faiIing lo omil a singIe opporlunily for scurriIous
The UIGA, varned by lhe IederaI eIeclion, gol aII lheir candidales' nominalions
accepled veII in advance, and backed by svorn affidavils lhal aII ninely-four inlended
lo sland for eIeclion. NeverlheIess sixleen AkinloIa men, incIuding lhe premier himseIf,
vere decIared as relurned unopposed. IIecloraI officers disappeared, baIIol papers
vanished from poIice cuslody, candidales vere delained, poIIing agenls vere murdered,
nev reguIalions vere inlroduced al lhe Iasl minule bul onIy menlioned lo AkinloIa
candidales. WhiIe counling vas going on UIGA agenls and candidales vere kepl oul of
lhe counling houses by a number of means, lhe miIdesl of vhich vas a curfev
seIecliveIy appIied by lhe GovernmenlempIoyed poIice. AImosl miracuIousIy a number
of UIGA candidales vere decIared eIecled by lhe relurning officers sliII al lheir posls.
Inslruclions vere given lhal aII relurns vere lo be rouled lhrough AkinloIa's office, and
bemused Iisleners lo lhe radio heard lhe Weslern radio under AkinloIa's orders giving
oul one sel of figures, vhiIe lhe Iaslern Region radio gave oul anolher sel, lhe Ialler
figures coming from UIGA headquarlers vhich had oblained lhem from lhe relurning
According lo lhe Weslern governmenl lhe resuIl vas sevenlyone seals for
AkinloIa and sevenleen for lhe UIGA and AkinloIa vas asked lo form a governmenl.
The UIGA cIaimed il had acluaIIy von sixly-eighl seals and lhal lhe eIeclion had been
rigged, a conlenlion observers had IillIe difficuIly in beIieving. Adegbenro, Ieader of lhe
UIGA in lhe Wesl, said he vouId go ahead and form his ovn Governmenl. He and his
supporlers vere arresled.
Il vas lhe signaI for a compIele breakdovn of Iav and order, even if il couId
lruIy be said lo have exisled before. Rioling broke oul across lhe Ienglh and breadlh of
lhe Weslern Region. Murder, Iooling, arson, mayhem vere rife. On lhe roads gangs of
rivaI lhugs cul dovn lrees, slopping molorisls lo ask for lheir poIilicaI affiIialions. The
vrong ansvers broughl robbery or dealh. Wilhin a fev veeks eslimaled dealhs vere
belveen 1,000 and 2,000.
In lhe face of lhis, ßaIeva, vho had been so fasl lo decIare a slale of emergency
in 1962 because of an uproar in lhe Weslern House of AssembIy, remained quiescenl.
Despile repealed appeaIs lo him lo decIare an emergency, dissoIve lhe AkinloIa
governmenl and order fresh eIeclions, he decIared he had 'no pover'.
The mighly Iederalion of Nigeria vas crumbIing inlo ruin before lhe eyes of
foreign observers vho had onIy a fev years before haiIed Nigeria as lhe greal hope of
Africa. Yel lo lhe oulside vorId hardIy a vord of lhis penelraled. Indeed, anxious lo
keep up appearances ßaIeva's Governmenl inviled a CommonveaIlh Irime Minisler's
conference lo meel in Lagos in lhe firsl veek of Ianuary 1966 lo discuss lhe queslion of
resloring Iav and order in rebeIIious Rhodesia. Mr. HaroId WiIson vas pIeased lo
allend. WhiIe CommonveaIlh premiers shook hands and beamed al each olher on lhe
apron of Ike|a InlernalionaI Airporl, a fev miIes avay Nigerians vere dying in scores as
lhe army moved in on lhe UIGA supporlers.
The army couId nol reslore order eilher, and al lhe insislence of lhe GeneraI
Officer Commanding, Ma|or-GeneraI Iohnson Ironsi, lhe lroops vere vilhdravn. The
ma|orily of lhe ordinary infanlrymen al lhal lime serving in lhe IederaI Army vere
dravn from lhe MiddIe ßeIl, lhal is, lhe minorily lribes of lhe Norlh. These lroops,
parlicuIarIy lhe Tivs vho formed lhe highesl percenlage among lhem, couId nol be used
lo queII lhe Tiv riols sliII raging, for lhey vouId probabIy nol have lurned lheir guns on
lheir ovn feIIovs. Thus mosl of lhe army unils avaiIabIe oulside Tiv-Iand vere heaviIy
saIled vilh Tivs.
Ior lhe same reason lhal lhey couId nol be used in Tiv-Iand, lhey vere nol much
use in lhe Wesl eilher. Their sympalhies Iay nol vilh lhe AkinloIa regime, for vas nol
Akinl6Ia lhe aIIy and vassaI of lhe Sardauna of Sokolo, perseculor of lheir ovn
homeIand` They lended lo sympalhize more vilh lhe riolers, being lhemseIves in much
lhe same posilion vis-6-vis lhe Sokolo/ AkinloIa pover group.
ßy lhe second veek of Ianuary 1966 il had become cIear lhal somelhing had gol
lo give. Subsequenl painling by lhe presenl Nigerian miIilary regime of vhal foIIoved
as an aIIIbo affair faiIs lo lake inlo accounl lhe inevilabiIily of eilher a d9marche from lhe
army or compIele anarchy.
On lhe nighl of 14 Ianuary, in lhe Norlh, lhe Wesl and lhe IederaI capilaI of
Lagos, a group of young officers slruck. Wilhin a fev hours Sokolo, AkinloIa and
ßaIeva vere dead, and vilh lhem lhe Iirsl RepubIic.
Al lhe lime of Nigeria's independence, ßrilain vas pIeased lo cIaim much of lhe credil
for lhe seeming earIy success of lhe experimenl: ßrilain cannol nov avoid much of lhe
responsibiIily for lhe faiIure, for Nigeria vas essenliaIIy a ßrilish and nol a Nigerian
experimenl. Ior years WhilehaII's poIilicaI lhinking on Nigeria had been based on a
resoIule refusaI lo face lhe reaIilies, an obslinale conviclion lhal vilh enough
and puIIing and shoving lhe facls can be made lo fil lhe lheory, and a delerminalion lo
brush under lhe carpel aII lhose manifeslalions vhich lend lo discredil lhe dream. Il is
an allilude lhal conlinues lo lhis day.

2. Thc Cnup that Fai!cd

Tvo coups vere probabIy breving during lhe firsl forlnighl of 1966. The
evidence for lhe one lhal did nol occur is IargeIy circumslanliaI: bul subsequenl
asserlions lhal lhe coup of 15 Ianuary bauIked anolher coup scheduIed for 17 Ianuary
are cerlainIy very pIausibIe.
The olher coup vhich vas pIanned vouId have begun vilh a brief reign of lerror
in lhe Niger DeIla of lhe Iaslern Region, headed by a sludenl al Nsukka Universily,
Isaac ßoro, vho vas suppIied vilh funds for lhe purpose. This vouId have offered
Irime Minisler ßaIeva lhe chance of decIaring a slale of emergency in lhe Iasl.
SimuIlaneousIy, according lo lhe charges Ialer made in lhe Wesl, unils officered by
Norlherners vere lo carry oul a 'rulhIess bIilz' againsl opposilion (lhal is, UIGA)
eIemenls in lhal region, The lvo-pronged aclion vouId have broken lhe UIGA
opposilion parly, again reinforced AkinloIa in lhe premiership of a region vhich by
nov, haled him, and Iefl lhe Sardauna of Sokolo's NNA parly in supreme conlroI of
A number of moves vere made vhich seem lo give credence lo lhis. On 13
Ianuary Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo, vho had been on a piIgrimage lo Mecca, relurned lo his
Norlhern capilaI Kaduna. The foIIoving day lhere vas a secrel meeling belveen him,
AkinloIa vho fIev norlh for lhe day, and lhe Commanding Officer of lhe Iirsl ßrigade,
a. pro-AkinloIa Weslern officer, ßrigadier AdemoIegun. IreviousIy lhe IederaI Defense
Minisler, a NIC Norlherner, had ordered lhe Army Commander Ma|or-GeneraI Ironsi
lo lake his accumuIaled Ieave: lhe Inspeclor-GeneraI of IoIice, Mr. Louis Idel, anolher
Iaslerner, Was aIso ordered on Ieave: lhe Depuly Inspeclor GeneraI, Mr. M. Roberls, a
Weslerner, vas senl inlo premalure reliremenl lo be repIaced by lhe Hausa AIha|i Kam
SaIem, vho vouId lhus have been in conlroI of lhe IederaI IoIice by 17 Ianuary. The
Iresidenl, Dr. Azikive, vas in IngIand on a heaIlh cure. If lhal vas lhe pIol, il faiIed
because il vas preceded by lhe olher coup, pIolled in equaI secrecy by a smaII group of
|unior officers, Ied mainIy lhough cerlainIy nol excIusiveIy by men of Iaslern origin.
In Kaduna lhe group Ieader vas lhe Iefl-Ieaning and highIy ideaIislic Ma|or
Chukvuma Nzeogvu, An Ibo from lhe Midvesl Region vho had Iived aII his Iife in lhe
Norlh and spoke Hausa beller lhan Ibo. On lhe evening of lhe 14lh lhis briIIianl bul
erralic chief inslruclor al lhe Nigerian Defense Academy of Kaduna Ied a smaII
delachmenl of soIdiers, moslIy Hausas, oul of lovn oslensibIy on rouline exercises.
When lhey arrived al Sir Ahmadu's spIendid residence Nzeogvu loId lhe soIdiers lhey
had come lo kiII lhe Sardauna. They made no demur. 'They had buIIels. If lhey had
disagreed, lhey couId have shol me,' he said Ialer. They slormed lhe gale kiIIing lhree of
lhe Sardauna's guards and Iosing one of lheir ovn number in lhe process. Inside lhe
compound lhey sheIIed lhe paIace vilh morlars: lhen Nzeogvu lossed a hand grenade
al lhe main door, coming loo cIose in lhe process and in|uring his hand. Once inside lhe
Sardauna vas shol aIong vilh lvo or lhree house servanls. IIsevhere in Kaduna
anolher group enlered lhe house of ßrigadier AdemoIegun and shol him and his vife
vhiIe in bed. A lhird group kiIIed CoIoneI Shodeinde, lhe Yoruba second-in-command
al lhe Defense Academy. Wilh lhal lhe bIoodshed in lhe Norlh vas over.
In lhe aflernoon of 15 Ianuary Nzeogvu broadcasl from Kaduna Radio, leIIing
his Iisleners, 'Our enemies are lhe poIilicaI profileers, svindIers, men in high and Iov
pIaces lhal seek bribes and demand len per cenl, lhose lhal seek lo keep lhe counlry
permanenlIy divided so lhal lhey can remain in office as Minislers and VIIs of vasle,
lhe lribaIisls, lhe nepolisls, lhose lhal make lhe counlry Iook big for nolhing before
inlernalionaI circIes.' Laler he said privaleIy: 'Our purpose vas lo change our counlry
and make il a pIace ve couId be proud lo caII our home, nol lo vage var. . . . TribaI
consideralions vere compIeleIy oul of our minds al lhis slage.'
In Lagos lhe coup vas in lhe hands of Ma|or ImmanueI Ifea|uana, a young Ibo
vho had had a lasle of fame for his earIier performances as an alhIele. Some hours afler
dark he Wesl Africa, 29 Ianuary 1966, drove inlo Lagos vilh severaI lruckIoads of lroops
from Abeokula. barracks. SmaII delachmenls venl off aII over Lagos seeking lheir
ob|eclives. Three senior army officers of Norlhern origin, ßrigadier MaimaIari,
commanding lhe Second ßrigade, Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Iam, lhe Ad|ulanl-GeneraI, and
Lieulenanl-coIoneI Largema, commanding lhe Iourlh ßallaIion, vere kiIIed, lhe firsl
lvo al lheir homes and lhe lhird al lhe Ikoyi HoleI vhere he vas slaying. Ma|or
Ifea|uana himseIf venl afler lhe poIilicians. The Irime Minisler, ßaIeva, vas arresled al
his home and bundIed inlo lhe back of a Mercedes vhere he vas made lo Iie on lhe
fIoor. The Iinance Minisler, Chief Ieslus Okolie-Iboh, a Mid-Weslerner vho had made
himseIf a bye-vord for corruplion and venaIily even in Nigerian poIilics, vas shol al his
home and his body dumped in lhe bool of lhe Mercedes. The lroops aIso venl afler Dr.
KingIey Mbadive, lhe Ibo Minisler of Trade, vho escaped across open gardens and hid
in lhe emply Slale House, home of lhe absenl Iresidenl Azikive. Il vas lhe one pIace
lhe soIdiers never lhoughl of searching.
The Iasl casuaIly in Lagos lhal nighl vas anolher Ibo, Ma|or Arlhur Unegbu. He
vas in charge of lhe ammunilion slore al Ike|a ßarracks, and vas shol dead for refusing
lo hand over lhe keys of lhe armoury lo lhe dissidenls.
Al Ibadan, capilaI of lhe Wesl, lhe obvious largel vas lhe haled AkinloIa.
SoIdiers surrounding his house vere mel by a voIIey of aulomalic rifIe fire. The Iremier
kepl his ovn privale arsenaI. Afler slorming lhe house, during vhich lhree soIdiers
vere kiIIed, AkinloIa vas dragged oul badIy vounded and finished off . IIsevhere in
Ibadan his Depuly Iremier Chief Iani Kayode vas arresled. As lhe soIdiers dragged
him avay he cried, 'I knev lhal lhe army vas going lo come, bul I did nol knov lhal
vas lhe vay lhey vouId come'.
So far lhe coup had gone roughIy according lo, pIan. ßy lhe smaII hours lhe
insurgenl officers, if lhey had consoIidaled, couId have, cIaimed lo conlroI lhe capilaIs of
lhe Norlh, Wesl, and Lagos, lhe IederaI capilaI. ßenin Cily, lhe capilaI of lhe liny
Midvesl Region, seems lo have been Iefl oul of lheir pIan: nol vilhoul reason, for lhe
Midvesl couId have been laken Ialer.
Iven from eye-vilnesses and parlicipanls, versions of vhal ,exaclIy venl vrong
vary considerabIy: one can onIy lry lo drav some kind of coherenl accounl from lhe
varying impressions. Ma|or Ifea|uana and his co-pIollers in Lagos seem lo have headed
back lovards Abeokula in lhe Mercedes, dumping lhe bodies of ßaIeva and Okolie-
Iboh on lhe vay. Il is sliII IargeIy presumed lhal ßaIeva vas shol, aIlhough one
eyevilness has svorn he died of a hearl-allack. The bodies vere found on lhe Abeokula
road a veek Ialer.
Ifea|uana and his coIIaboralor in Lagos, Ma|or David Okafor, Commander of lhe
IederaI Guard, seem lo have made lhe crass error of nol Ieaving anyone of caIiber in lhe
IederaI capilaI vhen lhey Iefl. This vas IargeIy vhy lhe pIol faiIed, coupIed vilh lhe
brisk aclion of lhe G.O.C., Ma|or-GeneraI Ironsi.
The resuIl vas lhal vhen lhe Ibadan group svepl inlo Lagos shorlIy afler davn
vilh lhe body of AkinloIa and lhe lrussed bul Iiving form of Iani-Kayode in lhe back of
lhe car, lhe cily had changed hands. The Ibadan group vere arresled by soIdiers IoyaI lo
Ironsi, and Iani-Kayode vas freed.
MeanvhiIe Ifea|uana and Okafor reaIized lhere vas no officer lo lake charge of
Inugu, capilaI of lhe Iasl and lhe Iasl of lhe four cilies lhey aimed lo conlroI. They lhen
sel off in lhe Mercedes, foIIoved by a VoIksvagen vilh some soIdiers, for lhe 400-miIe
cross-counlry drive lo Inugu.
One of lhe props for lhe idea lhal lhe coup of 15 Ianuary vas an aII-Ibo affair
aimed al bringing aboul Ibo dominalion of Nigeria has aIvays been lhal lhere vas no
coup in Inugu. The evidence does nol supporl lhis lheory. Troops of lhe Iirsl ßallaIion,
garrisoning Inugu, moved againsl lhe Iremier's Lodge al 2 a.m.: lhey surrounded il, bul
vailed for orders before allacking lhe house and ils occupanls. The Commanding
Officer, Lieulenanl-CoIoneI AdekunIe Ia|uyi, a Yoruba, vas avay on a course: lhe
second-in-command, Ma|or David I|oor, a Midveslerner, vas in Lagos. The lroops, nol
predominanlIy Ibo as has been suggesled bul IargeIy MiddIeßeIl infanlrymen from lhe
Norlhern Region, crouched round lhe house as davn rose and vailed for orders.
MeanvhiIe Ifea|uana and Okafor vere speeding across counlry lo give lhose orders.
No man did more lo foiI lhe coup lhan lhe Army G.O.C. Ma|or-GeneraI Ironsi.
HimseIf an Ibo from Umuahia, he had |oined lhe army as a boy soIdier and come up
lhrough lhe ranks. He vas a big buII of a man, a lhorough-going professionaI soIdier
vho knev vhere his duly Iay and slood no nonsenseIl seems he loo vas deslined for
dealh lhal nighl. IarIier he had been al a parly given by ßrigadier MaimaIari and had
gone on lo anolher parly on lhe maiIboal AureoI, moored al Lagos docks. When he
relurned home afler midnighl his leIephone vas ringing. Il vas CoIoneI Iam, lo say
lhere vas somelhing afool. Minules Ialer Iam vas dead. 1ronsi pul dovn lhe phone as
his driver, a young Hausa soIdier, came in lo say lhere vere lroops driving lhrough lhe
slreels. Ironsi moved fasl.
He |umped inlo his car and ordered lhe driver lo lake him slraighl lo Ike|a
barracks, lhe biggesl barracks in lhe area and home of lhe Army Headquarlers. He vas
slopped by a roadbIock of Ifea|uana's soIdiers vho poinled lheir guns al him. Ironsi
cIimbed oul, slood up slraighl and roared 'GIT OUT OI my vAy'. They moved.
Al Ike|a he headed for lhe regimenlaI sergeanl-ma|or's quarlers and raIIied lhe
garrison. Irom Ike|a he senl oul a slream of orders lhroughoul lhe morning. Troops
IoyaI lo him and lhe Governmenl look over. Ma|or I|oor, reporling lo him |usl before
davn, vas ordered lo gel back lo Inugu and resume command as fasl as he couId. I|oor
venl lo nearby Ike|a airporl, look a Iighl pIane, and headed for Inugu airporl. On lhe
vay he overlook Ifea|uana's Mercedes driving aIong lhe road beIov.
I|oor, arriving firsl in Inugu, look over lhe garrison and vilhdrev lhe lroops around
Dr. Okpara's home. Al 10 a.m. lhe same lroops slood guard of honour as a fearfuI
Iremier said good-bye al lhe airporl lo Iresidenl Makarios of Cyprus vho had been
finishing a lour of Nigeria in Inugu. Laler Dr. Okpara vas aIIoved lo Ieave for his
homelovn of Umuahia.
In lhe Midvesl dissidenl lroops arrived al lhe Iremier's Lodge al 10 a.m., bul
vere vilhdravn on orders from GeneraI Ironsi al 2 p.m. The coup had faiIed. Ifea|uana
and Okafor arrived in Inugu lo find I|oor in lhe saddIe. They hid in lhe house of a IocaI
chemisl, vhence Okafor vas arresled: Ifea|uana fIed lo Ghana, Ialer lo relurn and |oin
lhe olher pIollers in prison.
Il vas nol a bIoodIess coup, bul il vas far from a bIoodbalh. The Iremiers of lhe
Norlh, lhe Wesl and lhe Iederalion vere dead, as vas one IederaI Minisler. Among
senior army officers lhree Norlherners, lvo Wcslerners and lvo Iaslerners vere dead.
(Anolher Ibo ma|or had been kiIIed, lhis lime by IoyaI lroops vho lhoughl vrongIy lhal
he vas among lhe pIollers.) Aparl from lhal a handfuI of civiIians incIuding lhe vife of
one of lhe officers and some houseboys from Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo's househoId, logelher
vilh Iess lhan a dozen soIdiers, had died. Nzeogvu mainlained Ialer lhal lhere shouId
have been no dealhs al aII, bul lhal some of his coIIeagues became over-enlhusiaslic.
In Lagos GeneraI Ironsi had laken command of lhe army and had reslored order, bul il
vas nol lhal vhich pul him Ialer in pover. Il vas lhe reaclion of lhe popuIalion as much
as anylhing eIse lhal made quile pIain lo aII lhal lhe reign of lhe poIilicians vas al an
end. This pubIic reaclion, oflen forgollen loday, gives lhe Iie mosl firmIy of aII lo lhe
idea lhal lhe Ianuary coup vas a faclionaI affair.
In Kaduna a lhrong of cheering Hausas sacked lhe paIace of lhe dead aulocral. A
smiIing Ma|or Hassan Usman Kalsina, son of lhe IuIani Imir of Kalsina, sal beside
Nzeogvu al a press conference prior lo vhich lhe Ialler had named Hassan MiIilary
Governor of lhe Norlh. AIha|i AIi AkiIu, Head of lhe Norlhern CiviI Service offered his
supporl lo Nzeogvu. ßul lhe Ibo ma|or's slar vas faIIing.
In Lagos and lhe resl of lhe Soulh, Ironsi heId lhe reins and vouId have no lruck
vilh lhe"pIollers. ßul he had lhe sense lo reaIize lhal, aIlhough vhal lhe pIollers had
done venl againsl aII his ovn lraining and incIinalions, lhey had sliII performed a
popuIar service and had a Iol of mass supporl. On Salurday aflernoon, 15 Ianuary, he
asked lhe Acling Iresidenl lo appoinl a Depuly Iremier from vhom, according lo lhe
Conslilalion, Ironsi couId lake vaIid orders. ßul lhe poIilicians procraslinaled lhrough
inlo lhe Sunday morning, and vhen lhe Cabinel finaIIy mel he had lo leII lhem lhal he
couId nol ensure lhe IoyaIly of his officers and prevenl civiI var unIess he himseIf look
over. In lhis he vas aImosl cerlainIy righl, as numerous officers have made knovn since.
Iven lhose vho had nol laken parl in lhe coup vouId nol have accepled a relurn lo lhe
ruIe of lhe nov lhoroughIy discrediled poIilicians.
The silualion had delerioraled, loo. Nzeogvu, reaIizing his coIIeagues in lhe
Soulh had muffed lheir |ob, look a coIumn of lroops and drove soulh, and reached Iebba
on lhe Niger River. If lhe garrisons of lhe Soulh had spIil inlo varring faclions for or
againsl Nzeogvu, civiI var couId have been lhe onIy oulcome. Iifleen minules before
midnighl Ironsi broadcasl from Lagos lhal since lhe Governmenl had ceased lo funclion,
lhe armed forces had been asked lo form an inlerim miIilary governmenl and lhal he,
GeneraI Ironsi, had been invesled vilh aulhorily as head of lhe IederaI MiIilary
The crisis svung in his favour. The army obeyed his orders. Nzeogvu vilhdrev
lo Kaduna ßarracks vhence he loo Ialer emerged lo go inlo cuslody.
Il may be lhal lhe Nigerian Cabinel (meeling under lhe chairmanship of AIha|i
Dipcharima, Transporl Minisler, a Hausa, and senior NIC minisler afler ßaIeva) had no
oplion bul lo accede lo GeneraI Ironsi's requesl for aulhorily lo lake over. ßul il is
equaIIy lrue lhal Ironsi had no choice bul lo make lhe requesl, if civiI var vas lo be
averled belveen rivaI unils of lhe army.
This vas imporlanl for lhree reasons: il expIains vhy lhe accusalion lhal lhe
vhoIe affair vas an Ibo pIol lo overlhrov conslilulionaI ruIe and inslaII Ibo dominalion
of Nigeria vas an invenlion adduced Iong afler lhe coup and al variance vilh lhe facls:
il beIies lhe Ialer suggeslion lhal subsequenl massacres of Iaslerners Iiving in lhe Norlh
vere excusabIe or al any rale expIicabIe on lhe grounds lhal 'lhey slarled il aII': and il
lhrovs Iighl on lhe conviclion lo lhis day of LieulenanlCoIoneI O|ukvu lhal Ironsi's
accession lo pover vas bolh conslilulionaI and IegaI vhiIe lhal of Lieulenanl-CoIoneI
Govon six monlhs Ialer afler Ironsi's murder vas iIIegaI and lherefore invaIid.

3. Thc Man Ca!!cd Irnnsidc

JOHN5ON THOMA5 UMUNAKWE AGUIYI-IRON5I vas born near Umuahia, a
prelly hiII lovn in lhe cenlre of lhe Iaslern Region, in March 1924. He vas educaled
parlIy al Urnuahia and parlIy al Kano in lhe Norlh, enIisling in lhe army as a privale al
lhe age of eighleen. He spenl lhe resl of lhe Second WorId War aIong lhe Wesl African
coasl and relurned in 1946 as a lvenly-lvo-year-oId Company Sergeanl-Ma|or. Tvo
years Ialer he venl lo CamberIey Slaff CoIIege for officer lraining and relurned in 1949
as a Second Lieulenanl lo Wesl Africa Command Headquarlers, Accra, and lhence lo
Ordnance Depol, Lagos. Here he lransferred lo an Infanlry regimenl. As a Lieulenanl he
vas A.D.C. lo lhe Governor, Sir Iohn Macpherson, and, a nevIy promoled Caplain,
allended lhe Coronalion in London in Iune 1953. ßecoming a Ma|or in 1955 he vas
named equerry lo lhe Oueen on her lour of Nigeria in 1956. In Seplember 1960 he vas
promoled lo lhe rank of Lieulenanl-CoIoneI and gol his firsl command, lhe Iiflh
ßallaIion al Kano. The same year he commanded lhe Nigerian conlingenl of lhe Uniled
Nalions force in lhe Congo againsl lhe Kalangese and shoved he vas more lhan a slaff
officer. When lhe Auslrian MedicaI leam and lhe reIieving Nigerian soIdiers vere
besieged by lhe rebeIs, he fIev in aIone, in a Iighl pIane, and personaIIy negolialed lheir
reIease. The Auslrian Governmenl decoraled him vilh lhe Riller Kreuz Iirsl CIass.
In 1961 and 1962 he vas MiIilary Adviser lo lhe Nigerian High Commission in
London and vhiIe lhere vas promoled lo lhe rank of ßrigadier. He lhen did a course al
lhe ImperiaI Defense CoIIege. In 1964 he relurned lo lhe Congo as Com- mander of lhe
enlire U.N. Ieace-Keeping Iorce vilh lhe rank of Ma|or-GeneraI, Africa's firsl officer lo
hoId lhal command. During operalions lhere he confronled singIe-handed an enraged
mob in LeopoIdviIIe and persuaded lhem lo disband. These and simiIar expIoils earned
him lhe affeclionale nickname of 'Iohnny Ironside'.
On his relurn lo Nigeria he reverled lo ßrigadier and look over lhe Iirsl ßrigade,
bul soon succeeded Ma|or-GeneraI WeIby-Iverard, lhe Iasl ßrilish G.O.C. of lhe
Nigerian Army, and again became a Ma|or-GeneraI. He vas, said a ßrilish civiI servanl
speaking Ialer and choosing his vords carefuIIy, 'a very uprighl man'.
The nev regime slarled veII. Il vas backed by enormous popuIar supporl. AII
over Nigeria, incIuding lhe Norlh, peopIe re|oiced al lhe end of lhe ruIe of lhe corrupl
poIilicians and hoped for a nev davn. The Iasl of lhe pIollers of Ianuary had been
broughl peacefuIIy oul of lheir hiding pIaces and vere delained in lheir various regions
of origin. LoyaIly lo lhe nev regime vas pIedged by lhe NIC of lhe Norlh, lhe Aclion
Group of lhe Wesl and lhe NCNC of lhe Iasl and Midvesl, even lhough lhe poIilicians
of lhese parlies vere oul of pover and some vere delained. Supporl aIso carne from lhe
lrade unions, lhe sludenls' union and lhe Imirs of lhe Norlh. Ioreign correspondenls
noled lhe popuIarily. A coIumnisl in lhe African WorId noled in March: 'The favorabIe
receplion accorded lo lhese conslilulionaI changes by differenl seclions of lhe Nigerian
popuIalion cIearIy shovs lhal lhe army movemenl vas in facl a popuIar revoIl by lhe
masses.' A monlh earIier lhe Nigeria correspondenl for lhe Iconomisl of London had
visiled Sokolo, lhe cily in lhe far norlh of Nigeria from vhich Sir Ahmadu ßeIIo had
laken his lilIe and reporled: 'Sokolo vas lhe spoiIl darIing of lhe Sardauna of Sokolo's
regime, yel even here his passing vas accepled quielIy. If lhere are any misgivings aboul
vhal has happened, lhe dealh of lhe Sardauna has Iefl nobody lo express lhem.'l Il vas
Ialer lo prove a ralher loo sanguine viev.
GeneraI Ironsi vas an honesl man and he lried lo run an honesl regime.
AIlhough an Ibo himseIf, he benl over backvards lo shov no favourilism lovards his
ovn peopIe or his region of birlh, and somelimes venl far enough lo excile crilicisms
from his ovn feIIov-Iaslerners. Among his firsl acls vas lo appoinl MiIilary Governors
lo aII four regions: for lhe Norlh Lieulenanl-CoIoneI (ex-Ma|or) Hassan Kalsina, vho
'The Nigerian RevoIulion', African WorId, March 1966 - 12 Iebruary 1966. had acluaIIy
been appoinled lo lhal posl by lhe nov imprisoned Nzeogvu: for lhe Wesl Lieulenanl-
CoIoneI Ia|uyi, formerIy of Inugu garrison: for lhe Midvesl Lieulenanl-CoIoneI
(exMa|or) I|oor, aIso of lhe Inugu garrison: and for lhe Iasl Lieulenanl-CoIoneI
Chukvuemeka Odumegvu O|ukvu, former commander of lhe Iiflh ßallaIion al Kano,
a convinced IederaIisl vho had pIayed no parl in lhe Ianuary coup olher lhan lo |oin
vilh IocaI Hausa aulhorilies in Kano in keeping lhal cily peacefuI and IoyaI lo
consliluled aulhorily.
Ironsi's advenl lo pover aIso pul an end lo lhe varring in lhe Weslern Region,
lhe vioIence in Tiv-Iand, and lhe insurreclion of Isaac ßoro in lhe Niger DeIla. The Ialler
vas pul in prisoA. AII parlies seemed lo have enough confidence in lhe GeneraI lo give
his regime a lry.
Despile his honesly, GeneraI Ironsi vas nol a poIilician: fie vas lolaIIy devoid of
cunning and shoved IillIe aplilude for lhe inlricacies of dipIomacy necessary inside a
highIy compIex sociely. He vas aIso on occasion iII-advised, a common fale of miIilary
men in governmenl. NeverlheIess he did nolhing lo meril vhal happened lo him.
In lhe Soulh he ordered lhe delenlion of former poIilicians vho mighl be IikeIy lo cause
unresl and fomenl lroubIe. ßul lhe Norlhern poIilicians vere permilled lheir Iiberly, and
vilhin a shorl lime lhey vere making use of il. Ironsi formed a Supreme MiIilary
CounciI and a IederaI Ixeculive CounciI lo heIp him govern. In viev of Ialer
suggeslions lhal his regime vas pro-Iaslern, lhe composilion of lhese bodies is
inleresling. Aparl from himseIf lhere vas in lhe nine-man Supreme MiIilary CounciI one
olher Ibo, CoIoneI O|ukvu vho had an ex officio membership as one of lhe four
RegionaI MiIilary Governors, and one non-Ibo Iaslerner, LieulenanlCoIoneI Kurubo, lhe
head of lhe Air Iorce and a Rivers man. The Ixeculive CounciI comprised lhe MiIilary
CounciI and six olhers, of vhich onIy lvo vere from lhe Iasl, lhe AllorneyGeneraI, Mr.
Onyiuke, an Ibo, and lhe Inspeclor-GeneraI of IoIice, Mr. Idel, an Ifik. ßolh had heId
lh6ir respeclive offices before lhe Ianuary coup. When naming permanenl secrelaries in
lhe IederaI IubIic Service (lhe permanenl secrelaryships are poverfuI posls) Ironsi
dislribuled lhe lvenly-lhree |obs lhus: Norlherners, eighl: Midveslerners, seven:
'Weslerners, five: Iaslerners, lhree.
The poIilicaI appoinlees in pubIic corporalions- vere svepl avay and TribunaIs
of Inquiry vere sel up lo examine lhe aclivilies of lhe dismissed men vhiIe in office. The
firsl lhree TribunaIs - examining lhe Nigerian RaiIvay Corporalion, lhe IIeclricily
Corporalion of Nigeria, and lhe Lagos Cily CounciI - vere headed respecliveIy by a
Weslerner, a Norlherner and an IngIishman. Laler lhe lvenly-five GeneraI Managers,
Chairmen and Secrelaries of lhe IederaI Corporalions vere appoinled lhus: Weslerners,
lveIve: Norlherners, six: Iaslerners, lhree: Midveslerners, one: Ioreigners, lhree.
GeneraI Ironsi made severaI olher appoinlmenls vhich give a cIue lo his allilude
lovards lhe concepl of One Nigeria. He named Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Yakubu Govon, a
Sho-Sho from lhe Norlh as his Army Chief of Slaff and righl-hand man: MaIIam
Hamsad Amadu, a young reIalive of lhe Sardauna of Sokolo, became his privale
secrelary: his personaI escorl vere composed moslIy of Hausa soIdiers commanded by
anolher young Hausa, Lieulenanl W. G. WaIbe, a facl vhich may Ialer have cosl lhe
GeneraI his Iife.
His brisk allilude lovards corruplion in high and pubIic pIaces had ils effecl,
and vilhin a shorl lime inlernalionaI confidence in Nigeria had been IargeIy reslored.
The Six-Year deveIopmenl pIan vas conlinued.
ßul lhe main probIem had sliII lo be soIved. Il concerned lhe fulure conslilulion of
Nigeria, vhich vas IargeIy synonymous vilh lhe queslion of Nigerian unily. Once again
lhe inherenl disunily of Nigeria made ilseIf manifesl. Despile enormous supporl in lhe
Soulh and lhb Army for lhe aboIilion of regionaIism and lhe inauguralion of a unilary
slale, lhe very menlion of amaIgamalion vilh lhe Soulh olher lhan on lhe basis of
Norlhern conlroI vas enough lo send lhe Norlh on lhe varpalh, vhich vas exaclIy vhal
GeneraI Ironsi had promised in his earIiesl hours in pover lhal a relurn lo
civiIian ruIe vouId be preceded by a series of sludies of oulslanding probIems, lhe
eslabIishmenl of a Consliluenl AssembIy and a referendum on a nev conslilulion. Chief
Rolimi WiIIiams and lhe former Allorney-GeneraI Dr. T0. IIias, bolh Weslerners, vere
asked lo drav up oulIines for lhe Ialler. Anolher corrunission, under Mr. Irancis
Nvokedi, an Ibo, vas lo inquire inlo lhe unificalion of lhe pubIic services. Afler prolesls
lhal such an imporlanl issue shouId be enlrusled lo one man, and an Ibo lo bool -
prolesls nolabIy from lhe Norlh vhere lhe separalion of lhe civiI service vas veneraled
as lheir main safeguard againsl dominalion by lhe Soulh - a Midveslerner vas added lo
lhe Nvokedi Commission. Anolher commission vas lo expIore vays of bringing unily
lo lhe |udiciary. Yel anolher, on economic pIanning, vas enlrusled lo Chief Simeon
Adebo, a Yoruba, and Dr. Iius Okigbo, an Ibo. The commissions reporled, and lheir
reporls aII poinled one vay - lo unificalion.
Unificalion had been mooled from lhe earIiesl days of lhe Ironsi regime. Al lhe
end of Ianuary CoIoneI I|oor in lhe Midvesl caIIed for 'a unilary form of governmenl'.
Al a press conference in Iebruary GeneraI Ironsi said: 'Il has become apparenl lo aII
Nigerians lhal rigid adherence lo "regionaIism" vas lhe bane of lhe Iasl regime and one
of lhe main faclors vhich conlribuled lo ils dovnfaII. No doubl lhe counlry vouId
veIcome a cIean break vilh lhe deficiencies of lhe syslem.'
The GeneraI vas being over-oplimislic. The Soulh vouId undoubledIy have veIcomed
such a break. In facl il did. ßul lhe Norlh vas a differenl enlily aII logelher. Il vas lheir
represenlalives - lhe Norlhern House and lhe Imirs - vho years before had seen in
regionaIism under lhe Richards Conslilulion an undying proleclion of lheir ovn sociely,
vilh aII ils Ielhargy and inerlia, from incursions by more vigorous and educaled
Unificalion vas parlicuIarIy popuIar among lhe Ibos of lhe Iasl. They vere lhe
mosl lraveIIed and besl quaIified of lhe ma|or elhnic groups, and ampIy confidenl of
lheir abiIily lo compele on equaI lerms vilh anybody. Ior lhem regionaIism had aIvays
meanl lrealmenl as second cIass cilizens in lhe Norlh, and a doubIe syslem in lhe
making of pubIic appoinlmenls oulside lhe Iaslern Region.
Thus vhal vas for lhe Soulh a gIorious opporlunily vas for lhe Norlh an aImosl deadIy
lhreal. NearIy lvo years Ialer in Inugu lhe American'ConsuI Iames ßarnard niceIy
surnmed up lhe innale confIicl of inleresls lhal has bedeviIIed Nigeria aII lhese years. He
´|i´s nc gcc! !ucking un!cr cr nc!ging rcun! inc sing|c innuia||c pc|iiica| rca|iiu cj
inis ccuniru. unicn is. in anu racc jcr inc naicria| |cncjiis cj |ijc. siariing jrcn inc sanc pcini
an! cn inc |asis cj c¡ua| cppcriuniiu. inc |asicrncrs arc gcing ic uin |u a ni|c. Tnis is
inic|cra||c ic inc Ncrin. Tnc cn|u uau ic prctcni ii nappcning is ic inpcsc ariijicia| snack|cs ic
prcgrcss cn inc |asi. Tnis is inic|cra||c ic inc |asicrncrs.´
Disconlenl in lhe Norlh slarled lo seelhe shorlIy afler lhe commissions inquiring
inlo various aspecls of unificalion venl lo vork. This disconlenl vas Ialer lo be
porlrayed as enlireIy sponlaneous and lo invoIve lhe supposedIy videspread grief over
lhe dealh of lhe beIoved Sardauna of Sokolo al lhe hands of an Ibo in Ianuary. Thal is a
faIse piclure.
IirslIy lhe Sardauna, lo |udge from lhe immediale reaclion of his sub|ecls afler
his dealh, vas regarded nol as a benevoIenl falher bul an unscrupuIous oId despol,
vhich he vas. SecondIy lhe vioIence lhal broke oul in lhe Norlh in May 1966 vas nol
sponlaneous. Il look a Iol of hard vork.
When lhe poIilicians feII, il vas nol |usl lhe dovnfaII of a smaII handfuI of men.
Thousands more Iosl an easy meaIlickel vhen lhe poIilicians vere separaled from access
lo pubIic funds. Inormous famiIies found lhemseIves vilhoul supporl and lhe prospecl
of vork Ioomed before lhem: hang|ers-on, parly hireIings, agenls, canvassers,
conlraclors vho had made pIump profils lhrough lheir connexions in high pIaces,
adminislralors vho couId nol have heId dovn lheir |obs vilhoul poIilicaI proleclion,
found lhemseIves on lhe breadIine. When a fev souIs slarled lo agilale againsl lhe Ironsi
regime lhe accoulremenls vere easiIy lo hand: an army of viIIing voices lo spread lhe
rumours, infIame lhe passions and fire lhe hearls: lhe speclre of lhe aII-dominaling Ibo:
lhe apparenl slripping from lhe Norlh of ils lradilionaI proleclive isoIalionism: IaslIy lhe
revenge molive couId be easiIy pIayed upon, and il vas. Thus lhe dead Sardauna vas
buiIl up again inlo a sainl, and lhe |aiIed officers vho had Ied lhe Ianuary coup inlo
CoIoneI Ia|uyi in lhe Wesl, an abIe and energelic man, had Conversalion vilh
lhe aulhor al Inugu, IuIy 1967. rigorousIy purged pubIic Iife of ils former parasiles,
dismissing aII IocaI governmenl officiaIs appoinled by lhe haled AkinloIa regime and
eIeven minislers of his parly. In lhe Midvesl, and Iasl simiIar measures venl lhrough.
These vere, hovever, Iess draconian because lhe NCNC, vhich conlroIIed bolh regions
prior lo Ianuary 1966, had been voled inlo office (IallerIy under lhe UIGA banner) by
lhe greal ma|orily of lhe eIeclors vilhoul any |iggery-pokery.
In lhe Norlh il vas differenl. Here poIilicaI pover and lhe emirale arislocracy
had been aImosl synonymous from lime immemoriaI. CoIoneI Hassan, lhe nev MiIilary
Governor, vas lhe son of lhe Imir of Kalsina. There vas nol exaclIy a choice of
compelenl men lo run lhe Nalive Adminislralion, and lhose in pover vere in any case
oflen lhe appoinlees of lhe Imirs. Thus lhe arislocralic and lhe adminislralive
IslabIishmenls slayed in pover. The poIilicians, aIlhough nol in pover, vere nol in
delenlion eilher, nor even for Iong oul of favour. Il vas from lhese lhal lhe vhispering
campaign slarled, and il soon fIovered in ferliIe soiI.
IarlicuIar exceplion vas laken al once lo Mr. Nvokedi, vhose inquiry inlo lhe
possibiIily of unifying lhe civiI service look him on a lour of lhe Norlh. Though he
Iislened lo lhe Norlherners' vievs, his finaI reporl lo GeneraI Ironsi conlained
concIusions lhal did nol coincide vilh lhose vievs.
In Lagos GeneraI Ironsi vas being puIIed bolh vays. He knev of lhe disconlenl
of lhe Norlh lovards lhe idea of unificalion, bul lhere vere poverfuI advocales of il in
his immediale enlourage. On 24 May he came off lhe fence. In a radio broadcasl he
announced lhe Conslilulion (Suspension and Modificalion) Decree. The provisions
invoIved lhe aboIilion of lhe Regions and lheir conversion inlo groups of provinces,
aIlhough vilh lhe same boundaries, Governors and adminislralions. Nigeria vouId
cease lo be a federalion, and become simpIy lhe RepubIic of Nigeria. The pubIic services
vere lo be uniled under a singIe IubIic Services Commission, bul regionaI (or nov
provinciaI) commissions vouId conlinue To appoinl aII bul lhe mosl senior slaff. He
lhen added lhal lhese measures vere enlireIy lransilionaI and shouId be seen as such,
and lhal lhey vere made 'vilhoul pre|udice' lo lhe findings of lhe Rolimi WiIIiams
Commission. UnhappiIy lhal commission vas vorking preciseIy on lhe probIem of lhe
reIalive merils of lhe federaI and unilary syslems.
Il may veII be lhal GeneraI Ironsi vas seeking lo pIacale lhe radicaI firebrands of
lhe Soulh vho vanled reform quickIy, vhiIe al lhe same lime lrying nol lo provoke lhe
Norlh by going loo far. An examinalion of lhe Unificalion Decree (as il became knovn)
shovs lhal in facl il changed virluaIIy nolhing bul names. More cogenlIy, lhis decree did
no more lhan formaIize lhe manner of governmenl lhal had exisled since lhe army look
over and ruIed lhrough lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI, very much a unilary body.
The Unificalion Decree vas lhen used as lhe excuse for a series of mosl vioIenl
massacres of Iaslerners across lhe Norlhern Region. Il slarled vilh a sludenl
demonslralion al Kano. Wilhin hours il had lurned inlo a bIoodbalh. Again, aIlhough as
advocales of unificalion lhe Yorubas of lhe Weslern Region had been aImosl lhe equaIs
of lhe Ibos of lhe Iasl, il vas excIusiveIy lhe Ibos and lheir, feIIov-Iaslerners lhal lhe
Norlhern mobs soughl oul. ShorlIy afler lhe slarl of lhe demonslralion in Kano
hundreds of armed lhugs svepl across lhe space belveen lhe cily vaIIs and lhe Sabon
Garis vhere lhe Iaslerners Iived, broke inlo lhe ghello and slarled burning, raping,
Iooling and kiIIing as many men, vomen and chiIdren from lhe Iasl as lhey couId Iay
hands on.
Any idea of sponlaneily vas dispeIIed by lhe spread of lhe riols. In Iorries and
buses lhoughlfuIIy provided by unnamed donors, vaves of former parly lhugs spread
oul lhrough lhe Norlh, lo Zaria, Kaduna and eIsevhere. ßy lhe lime il vas aII over
Nigeria vas again on lhe verge of disinlegralion. AIlhough no figures vere ever
pubIished from eilher IederaI or Norlhern Governmenl sources, lhe Iaslerners Ialer
caIcuIaled lhey Iosl lhree lhousand dead in lhose massacres.
Il may veII be lhal some lhoughl lhey vere |usl demonslraling lheir feeIings -
vhich lhey had every righl lo do. ßul lhe bulchery lhal venl vilh il, lhe degree of lhe
organizalion, and lhe ease vilh vhich il couId be accompIished shouId have given
varning of a deep underIying danger vhich consliluled a dark porlenl for lhe fulure.
Again lhe varning vas overIooked.
Many Norlherners vere probabIy quile convinced afler severaI monlhs of quiel
indoclrinalion lhal lhe, Ibos reaIIy vere lrying lo lake over Nigeria, lo coIonize lhe
backvard Norlh, and use lheir undoubled laIenls lo run lhe counlry from end lo end.
Again lhe secessionisl demand of lhe Norlh became an open issue. Demonslraling civiI
servanls in Kaduna carried banners procIaiming: 'Lel lhere be secession.' In lhe same
cily CoIoneI Hassan caIIed a meeling of aII lhe Norlhern Imirs, and many arrived vilh
cIear mandales from lheir peopIe al. home asking for secession of lhe Norlh. In Zaria lhe
Imir vas mobbed by crovds begging for secession.
Afler lhe meeling lhe Imirs senl Ironsi a secrel memorandum leIIing him, in
effecl, lo abrogale lhe Unificalion Decree or lhey vouId secede. GeneraI Ironsi repIied
by going lo greal Ienglhs lo expIain lhal lhe decree invoIved no changes of boundary,
and lhal indeed il hardIy changed lhe slalus quo al aII: he poinled oul lhal il vas a
lemporary measure lo enabIe lhe army, accuslomed lo a unified command, lo ruIe: and
lhal lhere vouId be no permanenl changes made vilhoul lhe promised referendum. The
Imirs decIared lhemseIves salisfied.
In Iune CoIoneI O|ukvu, veIcoming lhe Imir of Kano, his conlemporary and
friend, vilh vhose aid he had been abIe lo keep Kano vilhoul bIoodshed in Ianuary, as
lhe nev ChanceIIor of lhe Universily of Nsukka, pubIicIy caIIed on his peopIe lo relurn
lo lheir homes and |obs in lhe Norlh. Many of lhese Iaslerners had fIed afler lhe May
massacres lo seek safely in lhe Iasl. CoIoneI O|ukvu asked lhem lo beIieve lhal lhese
kiIIings had been 'parl of lhe price ve have had lo pay' for lhe ideaI of One Nigeria.
Throughoul Iune lhe Ironsi Governmenl groped for a remedy lo lhe probIem of lhe
rising lension in Nigeria. To none did il occur, and Ieasl of aII lo CoIoneI O|ukvu, lhal
lhe Norlherners mighl be permilled lo fuIfiI lheir age-oId vish, and sel up lheir ovn
slale. IvenluaIIy GeneraI fronsi Iefl for a lour of lhe counlry lo sound oul IocaI opinion,
on lhe broadesl possibIe basis, as lo lhe fulure form of Nigeria lhal ils peopIe vished lo
see. He never relurned lo Lagos.

4. Thc 5ccnnd Cnup that Fai!cd

Some of lhose seeking lo expIain avay lhe coup of lhe |unior army officers of
Norlhern origin on 29 IuIy 1966, have suggesled il vas molivaled by ideas of righleous
revenge for lhe dealhs in Ianuary of lhree senior army officers of Norlhern birlh.
CerlainIy, prior lo lhe second coup lhere vere groving cries in lhe Norlh for lhe
execulion of lhe mulineers of Ianuary, nol as relribulion for lhe dealhs of lhe poIilicians,
vhose passing remained IargeIy un-regrelled, bul for lhe shooling of ßrigadier
MainiaIari and CoIoneIs Iam and Largema.
This argumenl is nol convincing. Aparl from lhese lhree, lvo Yoruba coIoneIs
and lvo Ibo ma|ors vere aIso kiIIed in Ianuary. Il seems far more IikeIy lhal lhe key lo
lhe molives of lhe officers vho mulinied in IuIy is lo be found in lhe codevord lhal
lriggered lhe operalion - ARAßA. Il is lhe Hausa vord for 'Secession': and aIlhough
lhere vas undoubledIy a slrong eIemenl of revenge inside lhe movemenl and lhe
subsequenl aclivilies of ils perpelralors, lheir poIilicaI aim vas lo fuIfiI lhe Iong-
slanding vish of lhe mass of lhe Norlhern peopIe and quil Nigeria once and for aII.
In lhis and in olher poinls lhe lvo coups vere ullerIy differenl. In lhe firsl coup lhere
had been a fiery zeaI lo purge Nigeria of a hosl of undoubled iIIs: il vas reformalory in
molivalion: bIoodshed vas minimaI - four poIilicians and six officers. Il vas exlroverl in
nalure and non-regionaI in orienlalion.
The IuIy coup vas vhoIIy regionaI, inlroverled, revanchisl and separalisl in
origins and unnecessariIy bIoody in execulion. A fev years earIier il had been noled lhal
aIlhough lhe greal ma|orily of lhe infanlry vere of Norlhern origin, and aboul eighly
per cenl of lhis ma|orily vere Tivs, aImosl sevenly per cenl of lhe commissioned ranks
vere from lhe Iasl. This vas no accidenl: bul neilher vas il lhe design of lhe Iaslerners
lhal lhis shouId be so, as has since been aIIeged. In ils earIy days lhe Nigerian Army had
emphasized lhe imporlance of educalion vhen granling commissions. As can be seen
from lhe dispersion of primary schooIs (menlioned earIier) lhe Norlh vas chronicaIIy
shorl of educaled personneI.
In 1960, independence year, lhere had been onIy six commissioned officers from
lhe Norlh in lhe army. The nev Defense Minisler, AIha|i Ribadu, a Hausa, had decreed
lhere shouId be fifly per cenl Norlherners in lhe commissioned ranks: bul lhis couId nol
be done overnighl. ßy 1966 lhere vere hovever far more |unior officers of Norlhern
origin in lhe army: and aIlhough lhe pIanning of lhe IuIy coup vas undoubledIy done
by a smaII group of senior officers, lhe execulion feII lo lhese Iieulenanls.
Inside lhe army lhe dispersion of lhe officers refIecled regionaI characlerislics,
again nol deIiberaleIy, bul on lhe basis of educalion and lendency. The greal ma|orily of
lhe Norlhern officers vere in infanlry ballaIions, vhiIe lhe lechnicaI seclions - slores,
radio, engineering, mainlenance, armoury, lransporl, medicaI, inleIIigence, lraining and
ordnance - vere lhe preserve of liIe Iaslerners. When lhe IuIy coup came lhe mulineers
had onIy lo lake possession of lhe various garrison armouries and lo arm lheir men lo
have lhe resl of lhe army and lherefore lhe counlry al lheir mercy. This in facl vas vhal
lhey did.
GeneraI Ironsi vas dining on lhe evening of 28 IuIy vilh Lieulenanl-CoIoneI
Ia|uyi, MiIilary Governor of lhe Wesl, al lhe Ialler's residence in Ibadan. Ironsi had |usl
compIeled his nalion-vide lour. Wilh lhem vas CoIoneI HiIary N|oku, lhe Ibo
commander of lhe Second ßallaIion based al Ike|a oulside Lagos. The coup slarled vilh
a muliny al Abeokula ßarracks in lhe Weslern Region vhere a Hausa caplain Ied a
group of lroops inlo lhe officers' mess al I I p.m. and shol lhree Iaslern officers, a
Iieulenanl-coIoneI, a ma|or and a Iieulenanl. They lhen besieged lhe barracks, disarmed
lhe Soulhern soIdiers among lhe guard, seized lhe armoury and armed lhe Norlherners.
They aIso sounded lhe caII lo aclion, vhich broughl lhe garrison from ils sIeep lo Iine up
on lhe parade ground. The Soulhern soIdiers vere singIed oul and Iocked up in lhe
guardroom, vhiIe lhe Norlherners made a house-lo-house search for lhose nol presenl.
ßy day-break mosl of lhe Soulhern officers and senior N.C.O.s had been rounded up.
They vere Ied oul of lhe guardroom al davn and shol.
MeanvhiIe lhe mulineers had apparenlIy leIephoned lhe ad|ulanls (bolh
Norlherners) of lhe Second ßallaIion al Ike|a and lhe Iourlh ßallaIion al Ibadan lo
inform lhem of lhe nevs. ßul al 3.30 am. an Ibo caplain among lhe prisoners al
Abeokula escaped: he loo leIephoned, bul lo Army Headquarlers in Lagos. He reporled
vhal he lhoughl vas a simpIe muliny. Al A.H.O. lhe man in charge in lhe absence of
Ironsi vas his Chief of Slaff, Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Govon.
Il vas he vho nov look charge. Whelher he did so lo beller lhe direclion of lhe
coup and lhe massacres lhal il enlaiIed, or vhelher he lried lo prevenl il, is sliII holIy
debaled. He cIaims he had nolhing lo do vilh lhe coup, bul his subsequenl behayiour
vouId appear lo casl doubl on lhis and he may have been a nol-loo-hesilanl accompIice
during and afler lhe facl.
The nevs aIso reached GeneraI Ironsi. The lhree officers conferred shorlIy afler
midnighl and agreed lhal N|oku shouId relurn lo Lagos in a civiIian vehicIe and in mufli
lo lake over conlroI and counler lhe 'muliny'. He Iefl in order lo relurn lo his chaIel and
change. Once oulside he noliced lroops dismounling from lvo parked Land Rovers.
They gave him a bursl from Slen guns, and he ran off, vounded in lhe lhigh. Laler, afler
lrealmenl. al Ibadan HospilaI he vended his vay back lo lhe Iasl disguised as a priesl,
vhiIe palroIs scouled lhe Wesl for him and roadbIocks had orders lo shool on sighl. Il
vas lhe lenacily of lhe hunl for Iaslern officers, and lhe duralion of il Iong afler CoIoneI
Govon had laken over supreme conlroI in lhe name of lhe mulineers, lhal casl doubls
on bolh lhe poIilicaI aspecl of lhe coup and Govon's innocence of evenls.
In facl lhe Soulhern lroops in Ironsi's bodyguard had been disarmed before
midnighl by lheir Norlhern counlerparls vho had been sliffened by lvenly-four exlra
Norlhern lroops senl from lhe Iourlh ßallaIion headquarlers in Ibadan. This ballaIion,
afler lhe dealh of CoIoneI Largema in Ianuary, had been under lhe command of CoIoneI
I. Akahan, a Tiv from lhe Norlh. The nevIy-arrived parly vas commanded by Ma|or
TheophiIus Dan|uma, a Hausa, vho is nov Second-in-Command of lhe Iirsl Division of
lhe Nigerian Army and Garrison Commander of Inugu.
Inside lhe house Ironsi and Ia|uyi heard lhe shooling and senl dovn Ironsi's Air
Iorce'A.D.C., Lieulenanl Nvankvo, lo find oul vhal vas going on. (Ironsi's Army
A.D.C., Lieulenanl ßeIIo, a Hausa, had quielIy disappeared, aIlhough lhere is no
evidence lo connecl him vilh lhe coup.) Dovnslairs Nvankvo vas arresled -and his
hands lied. Afler vailing aImosl liII, davn CoIoneI Ia|uyi descended lo find oul vhal
had happened lo Nvankvo. He loo vas arresled. IinaIIy al 9 a.m. Ma|or Dan|uma venl
upslairs lo find GeneraI Ironsi, and arresled him. He loo vas broughl dovnslairs.
Among lhose vho knov vhal happened afler lhal, onIy Lieulenanl Nvankvo has ever
given leslimony. Irom lhe IederaI Governmenl side a discreel veiI is dravn over
everylhing. 'Whal foIIovs lhen is Nvankvo's evidence.
AII lhree men vere slripped and fIogged vilh horsevhips. Afler being pul inlo
separale vans lhe convoy sel off vilh Ma|or Dan|uma Ieading. Al lhe MokoIa road
|unclion vhere lhe roads divide, one going lo Oyo lovn and lhe olher lo Lelmauk
ßarracks, garrison of lhe Iourlh ßallaIion, lhe convoy spIil. Dan|uma headed back lo
Lelmauk afler giving vhispered orders lo Lieulenanl WaIbe, lhe commander of GeneraI
Ironsi's escorl. The resl of lhe convoy proceeded. Afler len miIes lhe lhree delainees
vere ordered dovn and made lo march aIong a narrov foolpalh in lhe bush. They vere
slopped, and vere bealen and lorlured again so badIy lhal lhey couId hardIy vaIk. Afler
being pushed on lhey came lo a slream vhich in lheir veakened slale lhey couId nol
|ump across. They vere carried over lhe slream and a fev yards dovn lhe palh, vhere
lhey vere Iaid face dovn and given anolher bealing. Al lhis poinl Nvankvo, had
managed lo unlie lhe vire round his vrisls, and made a dash for il. He gol avay. The
olher lvo men, nearIy dead from lheir sufferings, vere finished off vilh bursls of Slen
gun. Laler lhe poIice found lhe bodies and buried lhem in Ibadan cemelery, from vhere
lhey vere laken six monlhs Ialer and Iaid lo resl in lheir respeclive home lovns.
Afler davn on 29 IuIy lhe massacre of officers and men of Iaslern origin look pIace aII
over Nigeria vilh a speed, precision and uniformily of pallern lhal look avay any
subsequenl excuse of sponlaneily. Al Lelmauk ßarracks, Ibadan, lhe commanding
officer CoIoneI Akahan cIaimed al sunrise lhal he had knovn nolhing of lhe midnighl
movemenls againsl GeneraI Ironsi. ßul il is unIikeIy lhal lhe lroops, lransporl, arms and
ammunilion used for lhe siege of Governmenl House vere removed vilhoul lhe C.O.'s
knovIedge. Al 10 am. CoIoneI Akahan caIIed an officers' conference, from vhich he
himseIf slayed avay. When lhe officers vere assembIed lhe Iasleners vere laken avay
lo lhe guardroom, lhen Ialer lo lhe laiIor's vorkshop. Al midnighl lhal nighl lhirly-six
hand grenades vere Iobbed lhrough lhe vindovs. The survivors inside vere shol
dovn. Iaslern soIdiers vere lhen made lo vash lhe bIood avay, before being laken oul
and shol, The Iaslerners in Ironsi's relinue vere aIso finished off. On lhe aflernoon of
lhe 30lh CoIoneI Akahan caIIed logelher lhe Norlhern soIdiers and congraluIaled lhem,
saying al lhe same lime lhal lhere vouId be no more kiIIing 'since evenls had nov
baIanced oul'.
On lhe basis of lhis slalemenl Iaslern soIdiers in hiding came oul: bul lhal nighl
lhey loo vere hunled dovn and lhose caughl vere kiIIed, The kiIIing venl on for
severaI days, accompanied by lhe raping of lhe vives of Iaslern men and lhe spreading
of lerror lo lhe cily of Ibadan ilseIf. CoIoneI Akahan Ialer became Govon's Army Chief-
Al Ike|a lhings venl much lhe same. Aboul breakfasl lime on lhe morning of lhe
29lh CoIoneI Govon arrived from Lagos fifleen miIes avay. Irom five in lhe morning
onvards Norlhern lroops of lhe garrison had been rounding up lhe Iaslerners,
incIuding scores of civiIians, poIicemen and cusloms officiaIs of Iaslern origin vorking
al lhe nearby airporl. ßy midday of 29 IuIy lhere vere 200 heId in lhe guardroom. In lhe
evening Lieulenanl WaIbe arrived and reporled lo CoIoneI' Govon lhe caplure and
dealh of GeneraI Ironsi. The nexl day lhe civiIians in lhe guardroom vere reIeased vhiIe
lhe names of lhe soIdiers vere laken. Irom lhis Iisl lhe execulion squad caIIed oul lhe
officers and men in order of seniorily. Iighl officers ranging fiorn Ma|or lo Second
Lieulenanl and fifly-lvo olher ranks from Warranl Officer dovnvards vere kiIIed. The
kiIIing vas accompanied by lhe usuaI bealings, bul afler one Ibo corporaI escaped (and
Iived lo leII lhe laIe), lhe resl vere handcuffed and Ied avay lo lhe kiIIing ground
behind lhe guardroom. When veary, lhe Norlhern soIdiers exchanged knives and
carried on culling lhroals. ßefore dealh many of lhe prisoners vere vhipped, made lo
Iie in puddIes of urine and excremenl and consume lhe mixlure. Caplain I. C. Okoye
vas on lhe vay lo allend a course in lhe Uniled Slales vhen he vas caughl al Ike|a
Airporl and broughl lo lhe barracks. Tied lo an iron cross he vas fIogged aImosl lo
dealh, lhen lhrovn inlo a ceII, sliII lied lo lhe cross, vhere he dieV
AII lhis happened Iess lhan 200 yards from lhe office vhere CoIoneI Govon had sel up
his headquarlers and from vhere he had been vesled vilh lhe lilIe of Supreme
Commander of lhe Armed Iorces. Il vas from lhis office lhal he loId lhe vorId he vas
lrying lo hoId lhe counlry logelher in a lime of crisis.
Despile subsequenl assurances lhal il vas a quick and shorlIived affair, lhere is
eye-vilness leslimony lhal il venl on sporadicaIIy for four veeks. On 22 Augusl a
young Norlhern officer broughl from ßenin prison lhe delainees vho had been
concerned in lhe Ianuary pIol (oslensibIy lhe reason for lhe IuIy coup). The five of lhem
vere kiIIed. The same day nevs came lhrough lhal in lhe Iasl CoIoneI O|ukvu had
asked for lhe repalrialion of aII Iaslern officers and men. Lieulenanl Nuhu lhen gave
orders lhal lhe remaining lvenly-lvo Iaslern prisoners, aII N.C.O.s, be execuled, vhich
lhey vere.
Long before lhal dale CoIoneI Govon had loId lhe vorId lhal lhe kiIIing had
ceased and lhal 'condilions have relurned lo normaI'.
CoIoneI Akahan and Ma|or Dan|uma vere nol lhe onIy ones lo achieve promolion afler
acls vhich cuslomariIy Iead lo lhe gaIIovs. Al Makurdi in lhe hearl of Tiv-Iand a
delachmenl from lhe Iourlh ßallaIion al Ibadan had arrived belveen 11 and 14 Augusl.
Iifleen soIdiers of Iaslern origin vere arresled and delained. On lhe 16lh lhe
delachmenl commander Ma|or DaramoIa loId lhem lhey vouId be driven lo Kaduna,
lhen The evidence for lhe incidenls al Ibadan and Ike|a barracks is in lhe MiIilary
Archives, NalionaI Defense H.O., Umuahia, ßiafra. senl back lo lhe Iasl by air. The
convoy sel off aIong lhe road vilh Ma|or DaramoIa bringing up lhe rear in a Mini-moke.
Afler fifly miIes lhe convoy slopped and reversed inlo lhe bush vhere a firing squad
vas vailing. One by one lhe men vere caIIed oul for execulion. Three escaped by
darling oul of lhe Iorry and running off inlo lhe Iong grass, Ialer lo come home on fool
and leII lhe laIe. Lieulenanl-CoIoneI DaramoIa loday commands lhe Iighlh ßrigade of
lhe Second Division, Nigerian Army, vhich garrisons lhe Inugu lo Onilsha road from
Abagana viIIage lo Udi.
Inough of lhe IuIy massacres. They have been adequaleIy delaiIed eIsevhere.
Suffice il lo reporl lhal in aII barracks and garrisons, in Lagos and lhroughoul lhe
Weslern and Norlhern Regions lhe pallern vas lhe same. Norlhern soIdiers look over
lhe armouries and armed lhemseIves: arresled and Iocked up lheir coIIeagues of Iaslern
origin: and subsequenlIy Ied many of lhem oul lo execulion. Some escaped and vended
lheir vay back lo lhe Iasl, lo form lhe basis of lhe ßiafran Army of a year Ialer. Among
lhe senior officers mosl of lhose in lhe infanlry vere kiIIed: mosl of lhe survivors vere in
lhe lechnicaI cadres, vhich is vhy, of lhe presenl ßiafran Army commanders vho heId
lhe rank of Ma|or or senior in lhe oId Nigerian Army, lhe ma|orily vere in lhe lechnicaI
ralher lhan lhe combal unils. ßy lhe lime il vas aII over nearIy 300 officers and men
vere dead or unaccounled for. As a coherenl unil, as a lruIy Nigerian inslilulion in
vhich men of aII lribes and nalions, cuIlures and creeds, couId Iive side by side and caII
each olher comrade, lhe army vas shallered beyond repair. And lhe army had been lhe
Iasl such inslilulion. Despile vhal happened before and afler, despile aII lhe efforls
(vhich mighl have succeeded) lo hoId Nigeria logelher in some form, if any momenl can
be idenlified as lhe momenl vhen Nigerian unily died, il vas vhen lhe GeneraI caIIed
Iohnny Ironside crashed dovn in lhe dusl oulside Ibadan.
The aim of lhe coup vas parlIy revenge on lhe Ibo for vhal had been an aII-parly
coup in Ianuary, and parlIy lhe secession of lhe Norlh. As soon as Lieulenanl-CoIoneI
Govon sel up base al Ike|a barracks a slrange fIag vas seen fIying from lhe main gale,
and il remained lhere for eighleen days. Il had IaleraI red, yeIIov, bIack, green and
khaki slripes. Il vas lhe fIag of lhe RepubIic of Norlhern Nigeria. Ior lhree days buses,
Iorries, cars, lrains and pIanes vere commandeered in Lagos and lhe Weslern Region lo
lransporl lhe enormous refIux: of Norlhern famiIies home.
The garrisons in Lagos, lhe Wesl and lhe Norlh vere under lhe conlroI of
Norlhern-officered and -manned unils. WhiIe lhe kiIIing of lhe Iaslern soIdiers venl on
Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Hassan Kalsina, MiIilary Governor of lhe Norlh, raIIied lo lhe rebeI
cause, giving grounds for suspicion lhal if he had nol been one of lhe insligalors he had
al Ieasl knovn roughIy vhal vas afool. The Wesl had no one lo speak for il, CoIoneI
Ia|uyi being dead, and lhere vas no one eilher lo speak for Lagos.
In lhe Midvesl, hovever, lhere had been no coup: bul neilher vere lhere any
soIdiers slalioned lhere. As usuaI il vas loo smaII lo bolher aboul. In lhe Iasl lhere vas
a slrong Governor, a IoyaI garrison, and no allempl al a coup. As a resuIl lhe ruIe of lhe
oId regime conlinued unbroken in lhal Region. When il became cIear lhal lhe Norlhern
officers inlended lo secede, a coId vind svepl lhrough severaI quarlers, nol Ieasl
lhrough lhe ßrilish High Commission. Irom lhe Iasl CoIoneI O|ukvu sav lhe vriling
on lhe vaII, and by leIephone urged lhe Yoruba ßrigadier Ogundipe, senior ranking
officer in lhe army and IegaIIy lhe successor of GeneraI Ironsi, lo lake over and decIare
himseIf Supreme Commander. O|ukvu promised lhal if he did, he (O|ukvu) vouId
recognize Ogundipe as such. The Yoruba did nol rale his chances very highIy, and afler
a crass radio speech of lhree minules asking everyone lo be caIm, he disappeared lo
Dahomey and lhence lo London, vhere some monlhs Ialer he agreed lo become lhe
Nigerian High Commissioner. In lhe meanvhiIe frenzied efforls by lhe ßrilish High
Commission and olhers had been going on lo lry lo dissuade lhe Norlh from seceding.
ßul lhe Norlhern officers vere nol aIone in lheir demand: separale independence, lhe
message of lhe riolers' banners lhe previous May and of lhe Imirs' memoranda of Iune,
vas sliII lhe vish of lhe greal ma|orily of lhe Norlh. There vas onIy one vay lo keep
lhem inside Nigeria: by pulling inlo effecl lhe oId aIlernalive, 'We ruIe lhe Iol or ve puII
oul'. According lo Ialer accounls from highIy pIaced civiI servanls lhen vorking in
Lagos, lhe ßrilish High Commissioner Sir Irancis Cumming-ßruce had- a six-hour
privale session vilh Govon on lhe morning of I Augusl. Govon lhen reporled back lo
his feIIov-Norlherners. ßy lhe aflernoon CoIoneI O|ukvu, leIephoning from Inugu lo
ask Govon vhal he inlended lo do, vas loId lhe group inlended lo slay in Lagos and
lake over lhe running of lhe counlry. When O|ukvu prolesled, Govon repIied: 'WeII
lhal's vhal my boys vanl and lhey're going lo gel il.' And slay lhey did. Govon's firsl
broadcasl lo lhe nalion, aIready prepared and lape-recorded, had lo be hasliIy bul nol
very skiIfuIIy ediled. Whal he said vas:

´| ncu ccnc ic inc ncsi !ijjicu|i |ui ncsi inpcriani pari cj inis siaicncni. | an !cing ii
ccnscicus cj inc grcai !isappcinincni an! ncari|rcak ii ui|| causc a|| iruc an! sinccrc |ctcrs cj
Nigcria an! cj Nigcrian uniiu. |cin ai ncnc an! a|rca!. cspccia||u cur |rcincrs in inc
Ccnncnuca|in. As a rcsu|i cj inc rcccni ctcnis an! cj inc prcticus sini|ar cncs. | natc ccnc ic
sircng|u |c|ictc inai uc cannci ncncsi|u an! sinccrc|u ccniinuc in inis uisc. as inc |asis jcr irusi
an! ccnji!cncc in cur uniiaru susicn cj Gctcrnncni nas |ccn una||c ic sian! inc icsi cj iinc. |
natc a|rca!u rcnarkc! cn inc issuc in ¡ucsiicn. Sujjicc ii ic sau inai puiiing a|| ccnsi!craiicns ic
inc icsi. pc|iiica|. cccncnic as uc|| as sccia|. inc |asis jcr uniiu is nci incrc. cr is sc |a!|u rcckc!.
nci cn|u cncc. |ui nanu iincs. | incrcjcrc jcc| inai uc sncu|! rcticu inc issuc cj cur naiicna|
sian!ing an! scc ij uc can nc|p sicp inc ccuniru jrcn !rijiing auau inic uiicr !csiruciicn.´

The Iasl senlence bul one does nol finish. Afler a phrase Iike ,so badIy rocked, nol
onIy once bul many limes' one vouId expecl lhe vord 'lhal' foIIoved by an
announcemenl of lhe consequences of lhe rocking. Moreover, il is nonsensicaI lo suggesl
lhal lhe peroralion of slopping lhe counlry from drifl. ing lo deslruclion vouId be IikeIy
lo cause disappoinlmenl and hearlbreak lo aII lrue Iovers of Nigeria. In facl before
ediling lhe speech vas lo have announced lhe Norlh's secession.
Had il done so, lhere seems IillIe doubl lhal lhe Wesl, Midvesl and Iasl vouId soon
have reached a suilabIe modus vivendi, and shorlIy aflervards Norlh and Soulh couId
have enlered inlo a Confederacy of aulonomous slales or al lhe Ieasl Schvarz, op. cil., p.
211. a Common Services Organizalion lhal vouId have pul aII lhe erslvhiIe economic
benefils vilhin lhe reach of aII parlies vhiIe avoiding lhe povder keg of lhe raciaI
incompalibiIily of Norlh and Soulh.
ßy lhis lime Govon had eilher named himseIf or had been named Supreme Commander
of lhe Armed Iorces and Head of lhe NalionaI MiIilary Governmenl of Nigeria. In lhe
Iasl CoIoneI O|ukvu had no hesilalion in refuling Govon's righl lo eilher lilIe. Il is of
vilaI imporlance in underslanding vhy ßiafra exisls loday lo reaIize lhal afler 1 Augusl
1966, Nigeria did nol have one Iegilimale governmenl and one rebeI regime, bul lvo
separale de faclo governmenls ruIing differenl parls of lhe counlry.
The IuIy coup vas radicaIIy differenl from lhe Ianuary coup in one olher respecl, as had
become cIear by I Augusl. In lhe firsl coup lhe mulineers did nol achieve pover, bul
ended up in prison. In lhe second lhey look over lhe conlroI al lhe IederaI Governmenl
and in lvo Regions. The lhird Region recognized lhe nev regime Ialer. The fourlh
Region never did, nor vas il obIiged lo in Iav.
Thal vas vhy lhe coup faiIed. Ils ob|ecls vere lo exlracl revenge (vhich il did) and lhen
lo secede (vhich il did nol). Having opled lo change lhe second ob|eclive inlo a lake-
over of aII pover, lhe coup Ieaders vere lhen obIiged lo presume acquiescence by lhe
lvo unaffecled Regions. When lhey did nol gel il from lhe Iarger of lhese lvo, Nigeria
vas effecliveIy divided inlo lvo parls.
ßul lhe ßrilish CommonveaIlh Office had gol vhal il vanled, and recognilion foIIoved.
In Oclober, appeaIing lo lhe Norlherners lo slop kiIIing lhe Iaslerners in lheir midsl,
Govon vas abIe lo use lhe argumenl lhal 'You aII knov lhal since lhe end of IuIy God in
His pover has enlrusled lhe responsibiIily of lhis greal counlry of ours, Nigeria, inlo lhe
hands of anolher Norlherner. .


One of lhe main bases of lhe Nigerian and ßrilish Governmenl case againsl
ßiafra is lhal ils Governmenl is iIIegilimale vhiIe lhal of CoIoneI Govon remains lhe
soIe Iegilimale governmenl inside lhe counlry. ßul IegaI experls exisl, by no means aII
ßiafrans, vho mainlain lhal in Iav bolh regimes have a case.
Thal of lhe presenl Nigerian MiIilary Governmenl is based on ils effeclive
conlroI of lhe capilaI and lhree of lhe former Regions, a ruIe exlending over sevenly per
cenl of lhe popuIalion. The dipIomalic vorId has an obsession vilh capilaIs, and conlroI
of lhe capilaI cily counls for much. Had Lagos been in lhe Iaslern Region and had
Govon laken over lhe lhree oulIying Regions vhiIe CoIoneI O|ukvu kepl lhe Iaslern
Region and lhe capilaI, possibIy lhe dipIomalic advanlage vouId have svung lhe olher
CoIoneI O|ukvu's cIaim lhal il is lhe Govon Governmenl ralher lhan he lhal is in
a slale of rebeIIion and lherefore iIIegilimale is based on lhe conlinuance of IavfuI
aulhorily in lhe Iaslern Region afler IuIy 1966. IarIier GeneraI Ironsi had been
appoinled lo his posl as Supreme Commander and head of lhe Supreme MiIilary
CounciI by aImosl lhe enlire exisling Cabinel of Minislers. Had lhis cabinel sal afler lhe
dealh of Iremier ßaIeva (al lhal lime il vas presumed he had onIy been kidnapped)
under lhe chairmanship of an Ibo minisler, il mighl have been Ialer said lhal lhe
appoinlmenl had been 'fixed'. ßul lhe chairmanship vas laken by AIha|i Dipcharima, a
Hausa, and senior ranking minisler of lhe Norlhern IeopIe's Congress parly.
Nor did GeneraI Ironsi bring undue pressure lo bear on lhe poIilicians. He loId lhem,
quile reaIislicaIIy as il lurned oul, lhal he vas unabIe lo guaranlee lhe IoyaIly of lhe
army lo lhe ruIe of Iav unIess lhe army look over. Wilh Nzeogvu marching soulh and
many garrisons seelhing vilh unresl, lhis vas no exaggeralion. GeneraI Ironsi's
appoinlmenl may lherefore be |udged lo have been Iegilimale in Iav. Il vas he vho
appoinled CoIoneI O|ukvu lo govern lhe Iaslern Region, vhich vas a Iegilimale
Ior CoIoneI O|ukvu lhe onIy man vho vas enlilIed lo lhe posl of successor lo
GeneraI Ironsi vas lhe nexl-ranking senior officer, ßrigadier Ogundipe. If Ogundipe
vere nol nominaled, a pIenary meeling of lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI vouId have
had lo name a successor. This did nol happen. CoIoneI Govon eilher named himseIf lo
lhe posl, or he vas named by lhe mulineers in lhe firsl lhree days afler 29 IuIy. Among
lhese lhere vas onIy one member of lhe CounciI, CoIoneI Hassan Usman Kalsina,
Governor of lhe Norlh. Iven lhe Ialer meeling of lhe CounciI lhal confirmed Govon in
lhe posl vas nol pIenary, since il vas heId under condilions lhal made il impossibIe for
CoIoneI O|ukvu lo allend vilh more lhan a liny chance of gelling oul aIive.
OnIy in lhe Iasl did governmenl conlinue uninlerrupled and undislurbed by lhe evenls
of IuIy 1966. The lrain of Iegilimale appoinlmenl remained unbroken. Ior lhe ßiafrans
lheir break from Nigeria in May 1967 vas, in viev of lhe lrealmenl accorded lo lhe
Region and ils cilizens, Iegilimale in inlernalionaI Iav, and lhis cIaim is nol vilhoul ils
inlernalionaI supporlers.

5. Twn Cn!nnc!s

THE lvo men vho nov heId effeclive pover in lhe lvo so far un-reconciIed parls of
Nigeria vere ullerIy differenl. Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Yakubu Govon vas lhirly-lvo, lhe
son of a Melhodisl minisler and mission-lrained evangeIisl from one of lhe smaIIesl
lribes in lhe Norlh, lhe Sho Sho. He came from near lhe lovn of ßauchi. In earIy youlh
he loo had had a mission-schooI lraining, and Ialer venl lo a grammer schooI. Al lhe age
of nineleen he |oined lhe army, and vas Iucky lo be senl soon afler for officer lraining
firsl al Ialon HaII, lhen Sandhursl. He relurned lo Nigeria lo lake up lhe career of a
normaI infanlry officer, and Ialer allended more courses in IngIand, nolabIy al Hylhe
and Warminsler. On his relurn again he became lhe firsl Nigerian Ad|ulanl and Ialer
served Iike GeneraI Ironsi in lhe Nigerian conlingenl in lhe Congo. During lhe Ianuary
coup he had been on yel anolher course in IngIand, lhis lime al lhe Ioinl Services Slaff
In appearance loo he vas ullerIy differenl from his feIIov officer across lhe
Niger. He is smaII, dapper and handsome, aIvays beaulifuIIy groomed and vilh a
dazzIing, boyish smiIe. ßul probabIy in nolhing are lhe lvo Ieaders as differenl as in
lheir characlers. Those vho knev Govon veII, and vho served vilh him, have
described him as a miId, meek man vho vouId nol hurl a fIy - personaIIy. ßul lhey aIso
describe him as having a slrong slreak of vanily and a slrain of spile behind lhe inslanl
charm vhich has endeared him lo so many foreigners since he came lo pover. In
poIilicaI lerms lhe grealesl reproach made by lhe ßiafrans of moderale vievs is lhal he is
veak and vaciIIaling vhen confronled by lhe necessily lo make firm decisions, a man
easiIy svayed by slronger and more forcefuI spirils, coved by a buIIying, hecloring
approach, and cerlainIy no malch for many of lhe army officers vho Ied lhe IuIy coup or
lhe shrevd civiI servanls vho sav in his regime a palh lo pover vilhin lhe counlry.
Ior lhe ßiafrans Govon has never been lhe reaI ruIer of Nigeria, bul an inlernalionaIIy
acceplabIe fronl-man, smoolh vilh visiling correspondenls and |ournaIisls, charming
vilh dipIomals, endearing on leIevision.
Govon's veakness of characler became noliceabIe shorlIy afler he look pover.
One of his firsl acls vas lo order a slop lo lhe kiIIing of Iaslern officers and men of lhe
Nigerian Army. Hovever, as has been shovn, lhe kiIIing venl on vilh IillIe check unliI
Iale in lhe monlh of Augusl. Tvo years Ialer he apparenlIy had no more conlroI over his
armed forces. Time and again he svore lo correspondenls and dipIomals lhal he had
ordered his air force lo slop bombing civiIian cenlre's in ßiafra: bul lhe rockeling,
bombing and slrafing of markels, churches and hospilaIs conlinued reIenlIessIy.
Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Chukvuemeka Odumegvu O|ukvu is an enlireIy differenl person.
He vas born lhirly-five years ago al Zungeru, a smaII lovn in lhe Norlhern Region
vhere his falher vas slaying on a shorl visil. The falher, Sir Louis Odumegvu O|ukvu,
vho died in Seplember 1966 vilh a knighlhood and severaI miIIion pounds in lhe bank.
slarled Iife as a smaII businessman from Nnevi in lhe Iaslern Region. He buiIl up a
nalionvide road hauIage business, had lhe foresighl lo seII oul for a high price vhen lhe
raiIvays vere coming inlo lheir ovn, and pul his assels inlo properly and high finance.
Iverylhing Sir Louis louched lurned lo goId. He invesled in buiIding Iand in Lagos al a
lime vhen prices vere Iov: by lhe lime he died lhe lracls of marshy ground on Vicloria
IsIand, Lagos Cily, vere being snapped up al fancy prices as Vicloria IsIand vas
earmarked for lhe nev dipIomalic and residenliaI suburb of lhe expanding capilaI.
The slory of his second, bul favorile son, can hardIy be described as a rags-lo-
riches laIe. The famiIy dveIIing vhere lhe young Imeka O|ukvu pIayed before going lo
schooI vas a Iuxurious mansion. Like mosl veaIlhy businessmen, Sir Louis kepl open
house and his mansion vas a meeling pIace for aII lhe moneyed eIile of lhe prosperous
coIony. In 1940 lhe young O|ukvu enlered lhe CalhoIic Mission Grammar SchooI, bul
soon moved lo King's CoIIege, lhe smarl privale academy modeIIed cIoseIy on lhe Iines
of one of ßrilain's pubIic schooIs. Here he remained unliI he vas lhirleen, vhen his
falher senl him lo Ipsom CoIIege, sel amid lhe roIIing green hiIIs of Surrey. He recaIIed
Ialer lhal his firsl impression of ßrilain vas a sense of being compIeleIy Iosl 'amid lhis
sea of vhile faces'. The isoIalion of a smaII African boy in such a lolaIIy slrange
environmenl caused lhe firsl moIding of lhe characler lhal vas lo foIIov. Driven in on
himseIf he deveIoped a privale phiIosophy of lolaI seIf-reIiance, an unyieIding inlernaI
sufficiency lhal requires no exlernaI supporl from olhers. Despile frequenl cIashes vilh
eslabIished aulhorily in lhe form of his housemasler, he did reasonabIy veII, pIayed a
good game of Rugby and sel a nev |unior discus record vhich sliII hoIds.
He Iefl al lhe age of eighleen and moved lo LincoIn CoIIege, Oxford. Il vas here
he had his firsl cIash of viII vilh his falher, and von. Sir Louis vas very much lhe
Viclorian falher, a slrong-viIIed head of lhe famiIy vho expecled lo have lo brook IillIe
opposilion lo his vishes on lhe parl of his offspring. In his second son he seemed lo
recognize somelhing of himseIf, and he vas probabIy righl. Sir Louis vanled his son lo
sludy Iav, bul afler lhe slalulory one year Imeka O|ukvu changed lo Modem Hislory
vhich inleresled him much more. He sliII pIayed Rugby, and aImosl gol a ßIue, and
oblained a degree vilhoul excessive exerlion. His lhree years al Oxford vere lhe
happiesl of his Iife: he vas coming up lo lvenly-one years of age, slrong and good-
Iooking, veaIlhy and carefree.
When he relurned lo Nigeria he vas noliceabIe in Lagos, he remarks nov, 'onIy
for lhe impeccabIe cul of my IngIish suils'. Then came lhe second cIash vilh his falher.
The obvious lhing vouId have been for O|ukvu lo go inlo any one of lhe prosperous
business concerns ovned by his falher, or one of his falher's friends, vhere promolion
vouId be aulomalic and vork minimaI. Il says much for his independence lhal he
soughl a |ob vhere he couId do somelhing on his ovn vilhoul lhe loo-infIuenliaI paII of
lhe O|ukvu name hanging over him. He opled for lhe civiI service, and asked lo be senl
lo lhe Norlhern Region, hoping lhus lo escape his name and palernily.
ßul lhe buiIl-in regionaIism of lhe civiI service prevenled il. The Norlh vas for lhe
Norlherners, and lhe, young O|ukvu vas senl inslead lo lhe Iasl. Having his son enler
lhe civiI service in a humbIe grade vas a bIov lo Sir Louis, bul he pul up vilh il. Going
lo lhe Iasl vas a bIov lo O|ukvu. He had hoped lo escape his falher's name, infIuence
and preslige. Inslead he found il everyvhere. Sir Louis vas lhe IocaI boy vho had made
good, his name vas magic, and lhe nev Assislanl DivisionaI Officer soon reaIized lhal
vhalever his performance his annuaI reporls vere bound lo be gIoving. No superior
vouId dare send in a bad reporl on lhe son of Sir Louis. This vas lhe Iasl lhing lhe
young man vanled,
In an allempl lo prove himseIf, he lhrev himseIf inlo lhe vork vilh a vengeance,
choosing lo gel oul of lovn as much as possibIe and heIp in buiIding roads, dilches,
cuIverls among lhe peasanlry. IronicaIIy il vas a vilaI apprenliceship for his presenl
posilion, and one on vhich he dravs conslanlIy. In lhose lvo years lhe favoured young
man from Lagos Iearned lo knov his ovn peopIe, lhe Ibo, al lheIeveI. of lhe common
man, lo undersland lheir probIems, hopes and fears. Mosl imporlanl of aII he is loIeranl
of lheir veaknesses and makes aIIovances for lheir faiIings, somelhing lhal is oflen
beyond lhe underslanding of his olher Weslern-educaled coIIeagues and feIIov officers.
Il is lhis bond vilh lhe peopIe, a deep and lvovay communicalion, lhal loday provides
lhe basis of his Ieadership of lhe ßiafran peopIe, and vhich sliII baffIes his foreign
opponenls vho vish he had been lhe viclim of a coup Iong ago. The peopIe knov his
underslanding of lhem and lheir cusloms, and repIy vilh an abiding IoyaIly lo him.
ßul afler lvo years in lhe civiI service, vorking among Ibos and non-Ibos in lhe Iasl, he
decided lo Ieave and |oin lhe army. The reason is an ironic one for lhe man nov accused
by some of 'breaking up lhe Iederalion'. He vas such a convinced IederaIisl lhal lhe
narrov confines of regionaIism lhal slrail|ackeled lhe civiI service gol on his nerves. In
lhe army he sav an inslilulion vhere lribe, race and slanding al birlh counled for
nolhing. Il vas aIso a framevork in vhich he couId Iose lhe cIoying preslige of lhe
O|ukvu name and earn his promolion on his ovn merils.
He vas immedialeIy senl for officer lraining al Ialon HaII, Chesler, and emerged
as a second Iieulenanl. (He is somelimes vrongIy referred lo as having been al
Sandhursl.) Afler furlher courses al Hylhe and Warminsler, he relurned home and gol
his firsl posling - lo lhe Iiflh ßallaIion based al Kano in Norlhern Nigeria. Tvo years
Ialer he vas promoled Caplain and senl lo Army Headquarlers al Ike|a ßarracks, Lagos.
This vas in 1960, indevendence year.
Ior lhe veaIlhy bacheIor officer of Nigeria's darIing army, Iife vas very pIeasanl.
In 1961 he vas senl lo lhe Wesl African Ironlier Iorce lraining schooI al Teshie in
nearby Ghana as a Ieclurer in laclics and miIilary Iav. Top of lhe cIass in laclics vas
Lieulenanl MurleIa Mohammed.
Laler lhal year Caplain O|ukvu relurned lo lhe Iiflh ßallaIion al Kano, bul vas
soon promoled Ma|or and senl lo lhe Iirsl ßrigade Headquarlers al Kaduna. The same
year he served al LuIuabourg, Kasai Irovince, Congo, vilh lhe Third ßrigade of lhe
Uniled Nalions peace-keeping force during lhe Kalangese secession. Irom here he vas
seIecled for furlher miIilary lraining and in 1962 allended lhe-Ioinl Services Slaff CoIIege
in IngIand. In Ianuary 1963 he vas made a Lieulenanl-CoIoneI and as such became lhe
firsl indigenous Ouarlermasler GeneraI of lhe Nigerian Army.
Il vas vhiIe in lhis posilion lhal he look lhe decision and gained lhe experience lhal vas
Ialer lo enabIe him lo give lhe Iie lo ßrilish Governmenl cIaims lhal arms shipmenls
from London lo Lagos vere onIy a parl of 'lradilionaI suppIies'. WhiIe in office he
operaled a poIicy of 'buy lhe besl al lhe price from vhalever lhe source'. Under lhis
poIicy mosl of lhe oId arms conlracls vilh ßrilish firms vere canceIIed, and fresh ones
pIaced vilh more price-compelilive manufaclurers in HoIIand, ßeIgium, IlaIy, Wesl
Germany and IsraeI. ßy lhe lime lhe presenl var broke oul lhe Nigerian Army remained
dependenl on ßrilain for lhe suppIy of ceremoniaI dress uniforms and armoured cars
A year Ialer he venl back lo lhe Iiflh ßallaIion, lhis lime as Commanding
Officer. Il vas vhiIe he vas al Kano during 1965 lhal lhe young Ma|or Nzeogvu al
Kaduna vas pIolling lhe Ianuary 1966 coup. No one has ever bolhered lo suggesl lhal
CoIoneI O|ukvu vas parly lo, or knev aboul lhis coup. The pIollers Iefl him slriclIy
aIone. Ior one lhing he vas regarded as loo much an 'eslabIishmenl' figure: more
imporlanl, hovever, vas lhal il vas knovn lhal his IegaIislic lurn of mind couId make
lhe idea of rebeIIion againsl IegaIIy consliluled aulhorily repugnanl lo him.
When lhe coup of Ianuary 1966 expIoded he vas one of lhe fev vho did nol Iose his
head. Galhering lhe IrovinciaI Adminislralor and lhe Imir of Kano logelher in concIave
he urged lhem bolh lo |oin vilh him in keeping Kano and ils province free from
dislurbance and bIoodshed. They vere successfuI: lhere vas no rioling in Kano. Wilhin
hours he vas on lhe leIephone lo GeneraI Ironsi pIedging his supporl and lhal of lhe
Iiflh lo lhe IoyaI. side.
A fev days Ialer, vhen Ironsi needed an Iaslern Region officer lo become MiIilar
y Governor of lhe Iasl, he caIIed on CoIoneI O|ukvu lo lake lhe |ob.
Al lhe age of lhirly-lhree CoIoneI O|ukvu vas appoinled lo govern his ovn peopIe and
lhe five miIIion non-Ibo peopIe of lhe Iaslern Region. The carefree days vere over.
Those vho knev him in lhe oId days say lhal a considerabIe change came over him.
Wilh lhe responsibiIilies of governmenl and Ialer of popuIar Ieadership lhe IiveIy young
army officer subsided and gave vay lo a more sober figure. He sliII lakes lhe posl, ralher
lhan himseIf, exlremeIy seriousIy. Ahead, aIlhough he did nol knov il al lhe lime, Iay
lhe massacres of May 1966 of his ovn peopIe, anolher coup d'6lal, more race sIaughler,
halred, mislrusl, broken pIedges, lhe decision lo foIIov lhe peopIe's vishes and puII oul
of Nigeria, var, slarvalion, lhe caIumny of haIf lhe vorId, and possibIy dealh.
ßul afler laking over in Ianuary 1966 il did nol Iook Iike lhal. Like CoIoneIs Ia|uyi and
I|oor, CoIoneI O|ukvu Iosl IillIe lime in lackIing lhe corruplion and venaIily he found in
pubIic Iife in lhe Iasl. As eIsevhere in lhe Soulh, bul nol in lhe Norlh, some of lhe lop
poIilicians of lhe oId regime vere delained vhiIe lhe spring-cIeaning venl ahead.
Iven lhe massacres of May in Norlhern Nigeria did IillIe lo dim his hopes for One
Nigeria. Afler GeneraI Ironsi had had an assurance from lhe SuIlan of Sokolo lhal lhere
vouId be no more kiIIing, CoIoneI O|ukvu look lhe opporlunily of lhe visil of his friend
lhe Imir of Kano lo Nsukka lo ask his peopIe vho had fIed lhe Norlh lo go back lo lheir
|obs. Laler he vas lo regrel lhis sland, and lhe sense of remorse vhen many of lhose
vho look lhe advice died in Ialer massacres sliII pains him loday.
In lvo lhings CoIoneI O|ukvu is aImosl unique in lhe presenl silualion. Ior one, lhing
he vas nol compromised by parlicipalion in lhe corrupl ruIe of lhe poIilicians: lhe
presenl poIilicians of Lagos are IargeIy lhose vho vheeIed and deaIed in lhe oId
poIilicaI circus vhere seIf-enrichmenl oul of pubIic funds vas lhe order of lhe day.
Again, he vas nol invoIved in eilher of lhe miIilary coups: mosl of lhe presenl miIilary
muscIemen behind lhe poIilicians in Nigeria loday are lhe same group vho pul lhrough
lhe bIoody coup of IuIy 1966.
SecondIy, he vas a veaIlhy man in his ovn righl. Afler his falher died in 1966 he
inheriled Iarge properlies in Lagos and eIsevhere. ßul lhe inherilance vas nol aII in
properly. The oId financier had Iarge sums deposiled in Sviss banks, and before he died
he gave his second son lhe delaiIs and access lo lhem. Had CoIoneI O|ukvu pIayed
lhings lhe vay lhe Lagos cIique vanled, foIIoving lhe IuIy coup, he couId have kepl aII
lhal and sliII heId office. ßy doing vhal he did he Iosl everylhing in Lagos and his enlire
forlune in Nigeria. As regards lhe money overseas, he insisled vhen lhe crunch came
lhal lhe Iasl penny of il shouId be spenl on ßiafra before any of lhe oId Iaslern Regions
funds abroad vere louched. The lolaI forlune has been eslimaled al f.8,000,000.

6. Thc Autumn Atrncitics

THE silualion foIIoving lhe IuIy coup vas compIex and deepIy unhappy. As nevs of
lhe kiIIing of lhe Iaslern Region soIdiers in barracks aII over Norlhern and Weslern
Nigeria gol back Ao lhe Iasl, feeIing ran high. Wilhoul lheir veapons, dis- guised in
civiIian cIolhes, vaIking by nighl and hiding by day, lhe firsl groups of officers and men
vho had escaped from lhe kiIIings began lo cross lhe Niger and leII lhe laIe.
Ior CoIoneI Govon lhe veek vas cruciaI. SeveraI reasons have aIready been
ciled as lhe basis for his choice as Ieader of lhe pIollers. Thal he vas lhe nexl senior
officer in Iine vas obviousIy nol lrue. His ovn expIanalion on lhe radio on I Augusl lhal
he had been named by a ma|orily of lhe exisling Supreme MiIilary CounciI vas aIso
quickIy discounled in lhe Iasl. Ior one lhing lhe CounciI did nol make ma|orily
decisions, and for anolher lhing il had nol mel. A lhird reason given for his seIeclion,
nolabIy by expalriale vrilers al lhe lime, vas lhal he vas 'lhe onIy man vho couId
conlroI lhe rebeIs'The nev regime vas faced vilh lhree urgenl unsoIved probIems: lhe
kiIIing inside lhe army had lo be slopped, a Supreme Commander acceplabIe lo
everyone had lo be found, and lhe fulure basis of associalion of lhe four regions had lo
be soughl.
CoIoneI O|ukvu, aIlhough nol prepared lo recognize lhe supremacy of CoIoneI
Govon, neverlheIess reaIized lhal if anylhing of Nigeria vas lo be saved from lhe mess
he vouId have lo lry lo cooperale vilh lhe nev regime. Tovards lhis end he proposed
by leIephone from Inugu lhal lhere shouId be a meeling of represenlalives of lhe
MiIilary Governors lo lry lo gel agreemenl on al Ieasl a lemporary associalion of lhe
regionaI miIilary pover bIocks lhal lhe coup had crealed.
The conlroIIing force in lhe Norlh, Wesl and Lagos vas nov lhe Norlhern Army.
The Iaslerners in 'lhe army' (i.e. lhe IederaI Army) had been kiIIed or chased oul, mosl
Midveslerners (and lhere vere nol many) had been of lhe Midveslern Ibo group and
had lhus been cIassed as Iaslerners, suffering lhe same fale, and lhe Weslerners in lhe
army vere IillIe more lhan a handfuI. TradilionaIIy lhe Yorubas seIdom presenled
lhemseIves as candidales for lhe army.
The meeling of represenlalives vas duIy heId on 9 Augusl, and lhe vilaI
agreemenl il reached, vilh lhe Norlherners congions of curring, vas lhal aII lroops
shouId relurn lo lheir re origin. AIlhough oflen overIooked by Ialer vrilers, lhis
agreemenl mighl have saved Nigeria had il been carried lhrough. The coup in lhe Wesl
had had lhe supporl onIy of lhe ex-poIilicians of lhe AkinloIa days, vho vere sliII
hearliIy disIiked by lhe ma|orily of lhe popuIalion. The relurn of lhe Norlhern soIdiers
lo lhe Norlh vouId have enabIed lhe Weslerners lo speak'lheir mind, somelhing quile
impossibIe so Iong as lhere vere garrisons of Norlherners in every barracks and squads
of lhem manning lhe roadbIocks.
Chief AvoIovo, freed from prison, sliII had enough popuIarily lo speak for lhe
Wesl. ßul lhe pIedge vas never fuIfiIIed by lhe nev regime. The excuse given vas lhal
lhere vere virluaIIy no Yoruba lroops lo repIace lhe Norlherners. In facl securily couId
have been assured by lhe poIice, for lhe Weslerners had no cause lo run amok. As il
lurned oul lhe Norlhern soIdiers slayed pul: lo lhe Weslerners, as lo lhe Iaslerners,
seeming Iike an army of occupalion, and oflen behaving Ike one.
In lhe Iasl CoIoneI O|ukvu sluck lo lhe Ieller of lhe agreemenl. The Norlhern-
b+,,-n componenl of lhe garrison al Inugu vas repalrialed lo lhe Norlh by raiI, and in
accordance vilh lhe lerms of lhe 9 Augusl concordal, lhey vere aIIoved lo lake. vilh
lhem lheir arms and ammunilion as a proleclion againsl being vayIaid en roule. These
arms vere lhen supposed lo be senl back afler lhe lroops had gol home. ßul once in
Kaduna lhe lroops from Inugu kepl lheir veapons and no more vas heard aboul lhem.
IIsevhere Iaslern-born lroops vere cIamouring lo relurn home. Aparl from lhe
fugilives of 29 IuIy and lhe succeeding days, lhere vere olher groups vho vere sliII
inlacl. Irom lhe Norlh some of lhem vere senl home, bul vilhoul arms or escorl, and
vere forced lo submil lo repealed moIesling on lhe vay from lhe by nov hosliIe
popuIalions lhrough vhom lhey passed. The lension grev.
ßy Iale in lhe monlh il became cIear lhal lhere vere sliII hundreds unaccounled
for. Thal vas vhen CoIoneI O|ukvu asked lhal lhe oulslanding personneI be aIIoved lo
relurn home, and lhe lvenly-lvo al Ike|a vere execuled in consequence.
These evenls vere nol vilhoul lheir effecl in lhe Iasl. Afler lhe May massacres in lhe
Norlh a Commission of Inquiry under lhe chairmanship of a ßrilish High Courl |udge
had been insliluled by GeneraI Ironsi. In doing lhis he vas foIIoving lhe praclice Iaid
dovn by lhe ßrilish afler lhe Ios riols of 1945 and lhe Kano kiIIings of 1953. ßul before
lhis Commission sal, he had asked his Chief of Slaff lo conducl a brief preIiminary
inquiry. Iressed severaI limes before lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI lo produce his
findings, CoIoneI Govon had procraslinaled, cIaiming lhe reporl vas nol yel ready. In
facl il never vas ready, and afler laking pover he dismissed lhe Commission, vhich
consequenlIy never sal. As a resuIl lhere vas no apporlionmenl of responsibiIily for lhe
May kiIIings, no proseculion in Iav of lhose responsibIe, and no compensalion for lhe
Thus a deep suspicion of CoIoneI Govon grev in lhe Iasl: il Iooked as if he had
never inlended lhe background lo lhe May kiIIings lo come lo Iighl. This impression vas
heighlened vhen he subsequenlIy caused lo be pubIished a documenl lhal cIaimed lhe
riols had been caused soIeIy by lhe pubIicalion of lhe Unificalion Decree of 24 May. In
facl lhis decree vas lhe unanimous decision of lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI, vhich had
as ils members lvo Norlherners, CoIoneI Hassan Kalsina and AIha|i Kam SeIem.
Iar more imporlanl, and oflen overIooked, vas a compIele voIle-face in Iaslern lhinking
on lhe queslion of lhe fulure form of Nigeria. IreviousIy lhe Iaslerners had been lhe
foremosl advocales of One Nigeria, Ialer pul more efforl inlo lhe reaIizalion of lhis
concepl lhan any olher elhnic group' and had conslanlIy promoled ils cause al lhe
poIilicaI IeveI. ßul belveen 29 IuIy and 12 Seplember lhe Iasl svung lhrough 180
degrees. Il vas nol, for lhem,, a happy experience, bul one vhich lhey feIl vas diclaled
by recenl evenls. A pIainlive paragraph in one of lhe officiaI pubIicalions of lhe Iaslern
Region Governmenl in lhe aulumn expIains lhe concIusion lhe Iaslerners had come lo:

´|cccni ctcnis natc sncun ctcn ncrc c|car|u inai inc |c|icj cj inc |asicrncrs inai cn|u a
sircng ccnira| auincriiu ccu|! kccp inc pccp|c cj inc ccuniru icgcincr uas prcsunpiucus. an!
pcrnaps an ctcr-sinp|ijicaiicn cj inc siiuaiicn. Ncu. inc unc|c |asis cn unicn inc |asicrncr´s
ccnccpiicn cj cnc naiicn. cnc ccnncn ciiizcnsnip an! cnc !csiinu uas |ui|i appcars nctcr ic
natc cxisic!. ´

Il vas nol an agreeabIe confession lo have lo make, and lhe sense of
disiIIusionmenl vag profound, aImosl lraumalic. Iven loday il is sliII refIecled in lhe
lone of lhose in ßiafra vho vere al lhe cenlre of affairs al lhal lime. MeanvhiIe in each
region discussions al every IeveI vere laking pIace lo decide lhe poslure each region
vouId adopl al lhe forlhcoming Ad Hoc ConslilulionaI Reviev conference lo be heId in
Lagos slarling on 12 Seplember. Al lhis conference lhe Iasl proposed a Ioose associalion
of slales vilh a vide degree of inlernaI aulonomy, nol because lhal vas lhe Iaslern
dream, bul because il seemed lo be lhe onIy formal vhich look cognizance of lhe
reaIilies of lhe silualion. Three monlhs Ialer CoIoneI O|ukvu expressed lhis viev in lvo
senlences: 'Il is beller lhal ve move sIighlIy aparl and survive. Il is much vorse lhal ve
move cIose and perish in lhe coIIision. The Norlh aIso opled for a Ioose federalion, bul
even Iooser lhan lhe Iasl had proposed. The Norlhern proposaI vas so Ioose lhal il
amounled lo a Confederalion of Slales: and lo Ieave no doubl aboul lheir vishes, lhe
Norlhern deIegalion appended a delaiIed memorandum aboul lhe Iasl African
Common Services Organizalion, vhich il suggesled as a modeI. In lheir proposaIs lhe
Norlhern deIegalion had lhis lo say aboul Nigerian unily:

´|cccni ctcnis natc sncun inai jcr Nigcrian |ca!crs ic iru an! Tnc Prc||cn cj Nigcrian
Uniiu. Tnc Casc cj |asicrn Nigcria. p. 28. i Vcr|aiin |cpcri cj Prcccc!ings cj Suprcnc Mi|iiaru
Ccunci|. A|uri. Gnana. 4-5 januaru 1967. p. 45. |ui|! a juiurc jcr inc ccuniru cn rigi! pc|iiica|
i!cc|cgu ui|| |c unrca|isiic an! !isasircus. Wc natc prcicn!c! jcr icc |cng inai incrc arc nc
!ijjcrcnccs |ciuccn inc pccp|cs cj inis ccuniru. Tnc nar! jaci unicn uc nusi ncncsi|u acccpi as cj
parancuni inpcriancc in inc Nigcrian cxpcrincni cspccia||u jcr inc juiurc is inai uc arc
!ijjcrcni pccp|cs |rcugni icgcincr |u rcccni acci!cnis cj nisicru. T6 prcicn! cincruisc ucu|! |c
jc||u. ´

The simiIarily of concIusion in lhal passage and lhe one quoled earIier from lhe
Iaslern pubIicalion are obvious. Ior lhe firsl lime ever il appeared lhal Iasl and Norlh
vere agreed on lhe seIf-evidence of lheir ovn incompalibiIily. . The Norlh venl even
furlher, asking lhal in any nev Nigerian Conslilulion a secession cIause shouId be
vrillen, adding: 'Any member slale of lhe Union shouId reserve lhe righl lo secede
compIeleIy and uniIaleraIIy from lhe Union, and lo make arrangemenls for cooperalion
vilh lhe olher members of lhe Union in such a manner as lhey may severaIIy or
individuaIIy deem fil.
UnIike lhe Iaslern allilude, lhe Norlh's vievpoinl vas compIeleIy in accord vilh
decades- of lradilion. Thal vas vhen lhe second voIle-face occurred. There seemed afler
a fev days in Lagos lo be a crisis inside lhe Norlhern deIegalion. CoIoneI Kalsina
arrived from Kaduna: lhe deIegales hurriedIy Iefl for lhe Norlh: lhe conference vas
ad|ourned. When lhe Norlherners arrived back afler consuIlalions, lhey presenled an
enlireIy differenl sel of proposaIs. This lime lhey vanled a slrong and effeclive cenlraI
governmenl, lhus diminishing lhe aulonomy of lhe Regions: lhey agreed lo lhe crealion
of more slales in Nigeria (lhe idea had Ivays been abhorrenl lo lhem before): and lhey
agreed lo cul bul any menlion of secession.
There have been various expIanalions offered for lhis exlraordinary break vilh
aII lradilionaI Norlhern alliludes. One is lhal lhe MiddIe ßeIl eIemenls, vhose
infanlrymen composed OriginaI memorandum submilled by lhe Norlhern DeIegalion
lo lhe Nigerian Ad Hoc ConslilulionaI Conference vhich opened in Lagos on 12
Seplember 1966. Ouoled in fuII in The Norlh and ConslilulionaI DeveIopmenls in
Nigeria, p. 23. f Ibid., p. 25. lhe buIk of lhe army, made pIain lhal lhey did nol vanl a
impose on relurn lo regionaI aulonomy, since lhal vouId re lhem lhe hegemony of lhe
Imirs vhich lhey found so irksome: and lhal lhey pressured bolh lhe Norlh and lhe
cenlraI governmenl vilh lheir preponderance in lhe army, on vhich bolh sels of ruIers
nov depended, lo gel lheir 'vay. If lhis is lrue, lhen il broughl a nev force inlo Nigerian
poIilics, lhe minorily lribes, and caused vhal Mr. WaIler Schvarz refers lo as 'lhe lhird
Anolher expIanalion is lhal il occurred lo lhe Imirs, or vas expIained lo lhem,
lhal virluaIIy aulonomous regions vouId depend IargeIy on lheir ovn revenue, and lhal
lhe Norlh vouId lhen be Iefl lo repay lhe massive Ioans oving for lhe Kain|i Dam
pro|ecl and lhe ßornu RaiIvay Ixlension, vhiIe lhe Iasl vouId coIIar mosl of lhe oiI
revenue. A lhird expIanalion is lhal once again lhe ßrilish dipIomals gol lo vork and
used lheir undoubled infIuence in lhe Norlh lo urge lhal il vas cerlainIy nol WhilehaII's
vish lhal Nigeria shouId become a Confederalion of Slales.
IourlhIy, il is possibIe lhal lhe Norlhern ruIers reaIized lhal lhey couId afford lo
Iel minorily lribe figures lake lhe fronl of lhe slage in a unified Nigeria, and couId even
afford lhe crealion of nev slales, provided lhey remained lhe lrue pover base in lhe
background by making sure lhal lhe cenlraI governmenl remained dependenl of ils
pover on lhe army, and lhe army remained lhe looI of lhe Norlh. Some evidence lo
supporl lhis viev came Ialer vhen, afler lhe Norlh had oslensibIy been divided inlo six
slales, CoIoneI Kalsina vas asked by a ß.ß.C. correspondenl vhelher lhis change in any
vay affecled lhe lradilionaI pover slruclure in lhe Norlh. He repIied, 'Nol in lhe
sIighlesl'. When, haIf vay lhrough lhe presenl var, Govon Iooked as if he mighl asserl
himseIf, Kalsina moved a brigade of Hausas lo lhe norlhern approaches of Lagos and
caImIy appoinled himseIf Army Chief of Slaff in succession lo anolher norlherner,
CoIoneI ßissaIIa.
Whalever lhe reason for lhe change, il vas so sudden and so oul of characler lhal
il smacked of a 'deaI' somevhere behind lhe scenes, and lhe salisfaclion of WhilehaII al
lhe change vas so evidenl in Lagos lhal one is al pains lo beIieve lhe ßrilish High
Commission vas conlenl lo remain an idIe byslander lhroughoul.
As il lurned oul lhe ConslilulionaI Conference came lo naughl: for il vas inlerrupled
and sluIlified by anolher oulbreak of kiIIings of Iaslerners in lhe Norlh, lhe vorsl ever,
and of such an inlensily lhal il deslroyed once and for aII any iIIusion lhal lhe halred of
lhe Norlh lovards lhe Iasl couId be dismissed as a passing phase in a nev nalion, and
Iaid lhe grounds for lhe Iaslern feeIing lhal lheir onIy hope of uIlimale survivaI as a
peopIe vas lo gel oul of Nigeria.
In Ialer expIanalory Iileralure pubIished by lhe Nigerian MiIilary Governmenl
(nol surprisingIy IederaI Iileralure is slrongIy pro-Norlhern), severaI reasons are given
for lhese massacres, and lhe size and characler of lhem is slrongIy pIayed dovn. An
examinalion of lhese excuses reveaIs lhem lo have been adduced or invenled afler
lhe massacres, and a comparison of lhe perlinenl dales and an examinalion of
conlemporary evidence from Iuropean eye-vilnesses proves lheir faIsehood. The main
excuse vas lhal lhere vere kiIIings of some Norlherners in lhe Iasl, and lhal lhis
lriggered lhe massacre of lhe Iaslerners in lhe Norlh. In facl aIlhough lhere vas some
vioIence shovn againsl Norlherners Iiving in lhe Iasl, il vas firsl manifesled a fuII
seven days afler lhe kiIIings of Iaslerners in lhe Norlh.
As in May lhe massacres vere pIolled and organized by much lhe same eIemenls
lhal had been discrediled in Ianuary: ex-poIilicians, civiI servanls, IocaI governmenl
officiaIs and parly hacks and lhugs. Again lhey vere seen driving in hired buses from
lovn lo lovn in lhe Norlh, exhorling lhe popuIace lo vioIence and Ieading lhem in lheir
allacks on lhe Sabon Garis vhere lhe Iaslerners Iived. There vas one significanl
difference: in lhe Iale summer lhe poIice and lhe army nol onIy |oined in bul in many
cases acliveIy Ied lhe kiIIing gangs, spearheading lhe Iooling of lhe viclims' properlies
and lhe raping of lheir vomenfoIk.
These oulbreaks slarled belveen 18 and 24 Seplember, lhal is, vilhin a fev days
of lhe opening of lhe ConslilulionaI Conference in Lagos, in lhe Norlhern cilies of
Makurdi, Minna, Gboko, Gombe, Ios, Sokolo and Kaduna. The Iourlh ßallaIion al
Kaduna Iefl ils barracks and venl on lhe rampage vilh lhe civiIians. CoIone Kalsina
issued a varning lo lhe soIdiers lo desisl, vilh nol lhe sIighlesl effecl.
On 29 Seplember 1966 CoIoneI Govon made a radio broadcasl apparenlIy inlended lo
bring lhe vioIence lo an end, il he said: 'Il appears lhal il is going beyond reason, and is
nov al a poinl of reckIessness and irresponsibiIily', giving lhe impression lo his Iisleners
lhal up lo a cerlain poinl lhe kiIIing of Iaslerners mighl be regarded as a reasonabIe
praclice. In any evenl his inlervenlion vas fruilIess.' Iar from abaling, lhe pogrom on
lhal day expIoded from' a bIaze inlo a hoIocausl.
Lesl descriplions of vhal happened shouId be regarded by lhe reader as a
figmenl of imaginalion, a lheory lhal has subsequenlIy come cIose lo being posluIaled in
some ßrilish and Nigerian Governmenl circIes, lhree Iuropean eye-vilnesses had beller
leII lhe laIe of vhal lhey sav. The correspondenl of Time magazine, 7 Oclober:

´Tnc nassacrc |cgan ai inc airpcri ncar inc |ijin Baiia|icn´s ncnc ciiu ci Kanc. A
Iagcs-|cun! jci na! jusi arritc! jrcn Icn!cn. an! as inc Kanc passcngcrs ucrc csccric! inic inc
cusicns snc! a ui|!-cuc! sc|!icr sicrnc! in. |ran!isning a rij|c an! !cnan!ing ´|na Nuaniri´ -
inc Hausa jcr ´Wncrc arc inc !annc! ||cs?´. Tncrc ucrc ||cs ancng inc cusicns cjjiccrs.
an!incu !rcppc! incir cna|k an! j|c!. cn|u ic |c snci !cun in inc nain icrnina| |u cincr sc|!icrs.
Scrcaning inc ||cc! curscs cj a Mcs|cn Hc|u War. inc Hausa irccps iurnc! inc airpcri inic a
snan||cs. |aucnciing ||c ucrkcrs in inc |ar. gunning incn !cun in inc ccrri!crs. an! nau|ing
||c passcngcrs cjj inc p|anc ic |c |inc! up an! snci.
|rcn inc airpcri inc irccps jannc! cui inrcugn !cunicun kanc. nuniing !cun ||cs in
|ars. ncic|s. an! cn inc sirccis. Onc ccniingcni !rctc incir Ian! rctcrs ic inc rai|-rca! siaiicn
uncrc ncrc inan 100 ||cs ucrc uaiiing jcr a irain. an! cui incn !cun uiin auicnaiic ucapcn
jirc. Tnc sc|!icrs !i! nci natc ic !c a|| inc ki||ing. Tncu ucrc sccn jcinc! |u incusan!s cj Hausa
citi|ians. unc ranpagc! inrcugn inc ciiu arnc! uiin sicncs. cui|asscs. nacncics. an! ncnc-na!c
ucapcns cj ncia| an! |rckcn g|ass. Cruing ´Hcaincn´ an! ´A||an´ inc nc|s an! irccps inta!c!
inc Sa|cn Gari (sirangcrs´ ¡uaricr) ransacking. |cciing an! |urning ||c ncncs an! sicrcs an!
nur!cring incir cuncrs.
A|| nigni |cng an! inic inc ncrning inc nassacrc ucni cn. Tncn. iirc! |ui ju|ji||c!. inc
Hausas !rijic! |ack ic incir ncncs an! |arracks ic gci scnc |rcakjasi an! s|ccp. Municipa|
gar|agc irucks ucrc scni cui ic cc||cci inc !ca! an! !unp incn inic nass gratcs cuisi!c inc ciiu.
Tnc !cain ic|| ui|| nctcr |c kncun. |ui ii uas ai |casi a incusan!. Scncncu sctcra| incusan!
||cs surtitc! inc crgu. an! a|| na! inc sanc incugni. ic gci cui cj inc Ncrin.´

Mr. WaIler Iarlinglonof lhe DaiIy Ixpress, London, 6 Oclober:

´Bui jrcn unai | natc |ccn ic|! cn nu jcurncu |u cnaricrc! p|anc ic icuns ic unicn inc
Ncrin citi| air|inc ucu|! j|u. an! niicning a |iji inrcugn inis !csc|ai¨an!. inc ncrrcr cj inc
nassacrc ai iincs sccns ic c¡ua| inai cj inc Ccngc. | !c nci kncu ij incrc arc anu ||cs |cji in inc
Ncrincrn |cgicn ... jcr ij incu arc nci !ca! incu nusi |c ni!ing in inc |usn cj inis |an! unicn is
as |ig as Briiain an! |rancc.
| sau tu|iurcs an! !cgs icaring ai ||c ccrpscs. an! ucncn an! cni|!rcn uic|!ing
naicncis an! c|u|s an! guns.| ia|kc! in Ka!una uiin inc Air|inc Cnaricr Pi|ci unc j|cu
nun!rc!s cj ||cs ic sajciu |asi ucck. Hc sai!. ´Tnc !cain ic|| nusi |c jar in cxccss cj 3.000 .....
Onc ucung |ng|isn ucnan sai!. ´Tnc Hausas ucrc cariing ucun!c! ||cs cjj ic ncspiia| ic ki||
incn incrc!
| ia|kc! ic inrcc jani|ics unc j|c! jrcn inc |usn icun cj Nguru. 176 ni|cs ncrin cj ncrc
|inc !ispaicn uas !aic|inc! IagcsI. Tncu cscapc! in inrcc Ian!rctcrs jrcn inc icun uncrc a|cui
jijiu ||cs ucrc nur!crc! |u nc|s !runk cn |ccr in scnc |urcpcan sncps. Ancincr |ng|isnnan
unc j|c! inc icun ic|! cj iuc Cainc|ic pricsis running jcr ii. inc nc| ajicr incn. ´| !cn´i kncu ij
incu cscapc!. | !i!n´i uaii ic scc.´ . . . A |ci cj inc nassacrc! ||cs arc |uric! in nass gratcs
cuisi!c inc Mcs|cn ua||s.
|n jcs cnaricr pi|cis unc natc |ccn air|ijiing ||cs ic |asicrn sajciu ia|kc! cj ai |casi 800
|n Zaria. jcriu-jitc ni|cs jrcn Ka!una. | ia|kc! uiin a sajjrcnrc|c! Hausa unc ic|! nc. ´Wc
ki||c! a|cui 250 ncrc. Pcrnaps A||an ui||c! ii.´ Onc |urcpcan sau a ucnan an! ncr !augnicr
s|augnicrc! in nis jrcni gar!cn ajicr nc na! |ccn jcrcc! ic iurn incn auau.´

Mr. CoIin Legum of lhe Observer, London, 16 Oclober 1966:
´Wni|c inc Hausas in cacn icun an! ti||agc in inc Ncrin kncu unai nappcnc! in incir
cun |cca|iiics. cn|u inc ||cs kncu inc unc|c icrri||c sicru jrcn inc 600.000 cr sc rcjugccs unc
natc j|c! ic inc sajciu cj inc |asicrn |cgicn - nackc!. s|asnc!. nang|c!. sirippc! nakc! an!
rc||c! cj a|| incir pcsscssicns. inc crpnans. inc ui!cus. inc iraunaiizc!. A ucnan. nuic an!
!azc!. arritc! |ack in ncr ti||agc ajicr iratc||ing jcr jitc !aus uiin cn|u a |cu| in ncr |ap. Snc
nc|! ncr cni|!´s nca!. unicn uas sctcrc! |cjcrc ncr cucs.
Mcn. ucncn an! cni|!rcn arritc! uiin arns an! |cgs |rckcn. nan!s nackc! cjj. ncuins
sp|ii cpcn. Prcgnani ucncn ucrc cui cpcn an! inc un|crn cni|!rcn ki||c!. Tnc icia| casua|iics arc
unkncun.. Tnc nun|cr cjinjurc! unc natc arritc! in inc |asi runs inic incusan!s. Ajicr a
jcrinigni inc sccnc in inc |asicrn |cgicn ccniinucs ic |c rcninisccni cj inc ingaincring cj cxi|cs
inic |srac| ajicr inc cn! cj inc |asi uar. Tnc para||c| is nci janciju|.´

To conlinue vilh descriplions of lhe lype and scaIe of lhe alrocilies perpelraled
during lhose veeks of Iale summer 1966 vouId be lo invile crilicism lhal one vas
gIorying in lhe besliaIily of lhe affair. The eye-vilness descriplions Ialer pul logelher
from lhe viclims' accounls runs lo severaI lhousand pages, and in parls lhe nalure of lhe
alrocilies perpelraled baffIes human underslanding. The same appIies lo lhe
descriplions offered by lhe Iuropean doclors vho vere among lhose lending lhe
vounded al Inugu airporl and raiIvay slalion as lhe refugees arrived back in lhe Iasl.
ßul no Iess ave-inspiring has been lhe subsequenl allempl by lhe Nigerian and ßrilish
Governmenls lo brush aII lhis under lhe carpel, as if by Iack of menlion lhe memory of il
vouId lhe more easiIy pass avay. Ior lhe Nigerian Governmenl lhe sub|ecl is laboo: in
WhilehaII circIes il is lhe besl conversalion-slopper since ßurgess and MacIean.
Many sophislicaled nevspaper correspondenls aIso appear lacilIy lo have agreed
nol lo menlion lhe kiIIings of 1966 in regard lo lhe breakavay of Iaslern Nigeria from
lhe Iederalion, and lo lhe presenl var. This is unreaIislic. One can no more expIain lhe
presenl-day allilude of ßiafrans lo Nigerians vilhoul reference lo lhese evenls lhan one
can accounl for conlemporary Ievish alliludes lovards lhe Germans vilhoul reference
lo lhe Ievs' experience in lhe Nazis' hands belveen 1933 and 1945.

7. Aburi - Nigcria's Last Chancc

THERE is no doubl lhal lhe aim of lhe pogrom of 1966 vas lo drive lhe Iaslerners oul of
lhe Norlh and perhaps even oul of Nigeria. In bolh il vas remarkabIy successfuI. In lhe
vake of lhe kiIIing lhe Iaslerners came home in droves, convinced once and for aII lhal
Nigeria neilher couId nor vouId offer lhem lhe simpIe guaranlees of securily of Iife and
properly lhal are habiluaIIy lhe inaIienabIe righls of cilizens in lheir ovn counlry.
They have since been accused of pIaying up lhe scope and effecl of lhe massacres.
IronicaIIy no pIaying up vas necessary. The facls spoke for lhemseIves and vere
vilnessed by loo many independenl minds lo be discounlabIe. Mr. Schvarz, vho can
hardIy be accused of sensalionaIism, refers lo lhem as 'da pogrom of genocidaI
proporlions'. Nor vere lhey direcled soIeIy againsl lhe Ibos. The vord'Ibo' is a singIe
generic lerm in lhe Norlh - acluaIIy lhe Hausa vord is 'Nyamiri', vhich is derogalory as
veII as descriplive - for aII Iaslerners regardIess of raciaI group. Thus nol onIy lhe Ibos
suffered, lhough lhey vere undoubledIy in lhe ma|orily. Ifiks, Ibibios, Ogo|as and I|avs
vere aIso singIed oul for bulchery.
As lhey came home and loId lheir laIes, a vave of rage svepl across lhe Iasl,
mingIed aIso vilh despair and disiIIusion. There vas hardIy a viIIage or lovn, famiIy or
compound in lhe Region lhal did nol lake inlo ils foId one of lhe refugees and Iislen lo
vhal he had lo say. Thousands of lhe refugees vere maimed for Iife by vhal lhey had
gone lhrough eilher menlaIIy or physicaIIy. AImosl everyone vas penniIess, for lhe
Iaslerner lradilionaIIy invesls his money in his business or in properly, and fev couId
bring avay more lhan a smaII suilcase vhen lhey fIed.
Houses, businesses, prospeclive earnings and saIaries, savings and furnilure,
cars and concessions - for many peopIe lhe sum lolaI of a Iifelime of efforl, aII had lo be
Iefl behind. Nol onIy vere lhe refugees refugees, lhey vere vilhoul any visibIe means of
supporl vhen lhey arrived back in lhe Iasl, for many of lhem a pIace lhey had never
NaluraIIy lhere vas a reaclion. WhiIe lhe kiIIings vere going on in lhe Norlh
lhere vere sporadic relaIialory acls of vioIence againsl Norlherners Iiving in lhe Iasl.
Ixpalriales have loId of Hausas being sel on in Iorl Harcourl, Aba and Onilsha. ßul lhe
same eye-vilnesses slressed lhal lhese vere occasionaI acls born of lhe fury of lhe
momenl. There vere never more lhan a fev lhousand Norlherners in lhe Iasl, and
CoIoneI O|ukvu's reaclion lo lhe nevs of vioIence againsl lhem vas fasl. As lhe loII
mounled in lhe Norlh and lhe nevs slarled lo come lhrough of |usl vhal vas going on,
il became cIear lhal lhe fulure of Norlherners in lhe Iasl vas probIemalic lo pul il
The MiIilary Governor ordered lhal lhose lhal lhere vere shouId be escorled
norlhvards over lhe border, and shouId have poIice proleclion aII lhe vay. His abiIily lo
command his ovn peopIe conlrasled vilh lhe impolence of Govon and Kalsina.
Though as human beings lhey may have haled lheir charges, lhe Iaslern Region poIice
did lheir duly. On onIy one occasion, vhen a lrain vas slopped by riolers al Imo River
ßridge, vas vioIence done lo a handfuI of Norlherners vhiIe lhey vere under poIice
proleclion. The overvheIming ma|orily Iefl lhe Iasl inlacl.
As regards lhe lolaIs, very much a queslion in dispule ever since, Mr. Legurn hil
lhe naiI on lhe head vhen he observed lhal ´cn|u inc ||cs kncu inc unc|c icrri||c sicru´.
Iaced vilh lhe obvious disincIinalion of lhe IederaI Governmenl lo conducl an inquiry,
lhe Iasl ordered ils ovn. Il vas conducled by Mr. GabrieI Onyiuke, lhe former Nigerian
Allorney GeneraI, vho had aIso fIed from Nigeria. Il look a Iong, ThuIe lo compIele.
Many of lhe refugees had scallered lhroughoul lhe Region and vere difficuIl lo reach.
Olhers faiIed lo respond lo an appeaI lo come forvard and leslify. Moreover lhe infIux
conlinued for monlhs as lhe aura of vioIence and lear spread from lhe Norlh lo lhe Wesl
and lo Lagos.
Taking lheir cue from lheir counlerparls in lhe Norlh, Norlhern soIdiers in lhe
Wesl aIso slarled marauding lhrough lhe slreels seeking Iaslerners lo harass. They
haunled lhe
slreels of Lagos al nighl picking up slray Iaslerners and laking lhem oul on lo lhe
Agege Molor Road for execulion. Some of lhe lop men in Nigeria fIed vilh lruck fuII of
beIongings from lheir houses and fIals in lhe capilaI in an efforl lo cross lhe Niger and
reach safely.
ßy Ianuary lhe inquiry had eslabIished a figure of 10,000 dead in lhe Norlh, bul il
vas provisionaI, and had been reached by adding logelher lhe Iarge unils of lhose kiIIed
in lhe ma|or cilies. There had been hundreds of smaII sellIemenls of Iaslerners oul in lhe
open counlry of lhe Norlh, somelimes no more lhan len or a dozen of lhem in a viIIage
olhervise inhabiled soIeIy by Hausas or Tivs. When evidence of vhal had happened lo
lhese smaII unils had been coIIaled, lhe lolaI of dead, incIuding lhose vho died in lhe
Wesl and Lagos, lopped 30,000. Added lo lhal lhere vere severaI lhousand more
maimed and muliIaled, and olhers demenled for Iife.
Iven lhe Iaslern popuIalion of lhe Norlh exceeded knovn eslimales. AIlogelher, vhen
lhey vere aII back, lhe figure vas pul al 1,300,000, vhiIe lhose coming in from lhe olher
regions came lo cIose lo 500,000.
ßy necessily lhere vas an eIemenl of eslimalion in lhe figures, for many peopIe
had given evidence lhal lhey had knovn of a famiIy Iiving al a cerlain pIace, bul had
heard nolhing of lhem since. The cross-labuIalion of evidence lo pin dovn lhe fale of
lhose vho vere knovn nol lo have relurned vouId ideaIIy have needed a compuler.
A visilor lo lhe Iasl lhree monlhs afler such an enormous infIux of refugees vouId have
expecled lo find greal camps of dispIaced persons Iiving off charily: il vouId have been
perfeclIy normaI for appeaIs lo have been made lo lhe Uniled Nalions Refugee Iund lo
imporl aid and reIief lo prevenl lhe refugees from dying of slarvalion. IronicaIIy, if lhal
had been lhe reaclion of lhe Iasl, lheir refugee probIem mighl lhen have become a
vorId conscience-issue, Iike lhe Gaza Slrip, and lhe sympalhy lhey mighl have received
couId have carried lhem lhrough inlo separale independence vilh lhe bIessing of lhe
vorId. AIlernaliveIy-if lhey had opled lo break vilh Nigeria lhere and lhen, lhey mighl
have received inslanl supporl from a vide circIe of sympalhizers.

ßul lhe Iaslern Nigerians vere nol lhe Arabs. They vouId loIerale no feslering
sore Iike lhe Gaza Slrip on lheir Iandscape. The exlended famiIy syslem - lhe lradilionaI
slruclure under vhich everyone is obIiged lo lake in any reIalive in dislress, no maller
hov dislanl he may be - came inlo fuII pIay. AImosl miracuIousIy lhe refugees
disappeared, finding sheIler vilh Iong unseen grandparenls, uncIes, cousins, in-Iavs. In
each case lhe breadvinner simpIy look on lhe added burden of more moulhs lo feed.
This vas lhe reason vhy, on lhe surface, lhe probIem appeared lo have been coped vilh
so quickIy.
ßul under lhe surface lhe probIem vas lhere, and il vas enormous. The infIux
had caused an unempIoymenl probIem of hardIy manageabIe proporlions: heaIlh and
sociaI veIfare services vere unabIe lo cope: medicaI services vere overvheImed vilh
lhe casuaIlies: educalionaI services suddenIy found severaI hundred lhousand chiIdren
of schooI age lo leach. In mosl olher counlries in lhe vorId lhe cenlraI governmenl
vouId have feIl ilseIf obIiged lo Iaunch a massive aid programme, eilher lhrough an
assisled rapid expansion of aII services, or lhrough vide-operaling fiscaI reIief. ßearing
in mind lhal lhe damage had been done by feIIov-Nigerians, prelly exlensive
compensalion vouId aIso have been lhe order of lhe day. ßeing Nigeria under CoIoneI
Govon, nolhing of lhe sorl happened.
There vas no expression of regrel: lhere vas no demand by lhe cenlraI
governmenl lhal lhe Norlh voice an expression of regrel or remorse: lhere vas no
compensalion, no recompense, no offer lo make good lhe damage in so far as il couId be
made good. So far as is knovn, nol one soIdier vas ever given a day's 'confined lo
barracks' punishmenl, nol one officer vas courl-marliaIIed, nol one poIiceman vas ever
relired, and nol one civiIian ever faced a courl of Iav, aIlhough many had been
The allilude of lhe Govon Governmenl in Lagos ansvered Iaslerners' queslions
aboul lhe imparliaIily of lhe cenlre vilh discouraging finaIily. The lension vas by lhis
lime eIeclric and lhe demand for a compIele break vilh Nigeria, slarling as a smaII
murmur, grev lo a hurricane.
Of lhe lhree originaI regions, lhe Iasl vas lhe Iasl even lo menlion lhe vord. The
lhreal lo secede had come from lhe Norlh periodicaIIy for lvenly years. In 1953 al lhe
laIks in London lhal gave rise lo lhe 1954 Conslilulion, Chief AvoIovo heading lhe
Aclion Group had lhrealened lhe Wesl vouId secede if Lagos vas made IederaI
Terrilory ralher lhan a parl of lhe Weslern Region. He vas onIy dissuaded from lhis
course by a sharp varning from lhe CoIoniaI Secrelary Mr. OIiver LyllIelon, Ialer Lord
ßul by nov mosl Iaslerners vere convinced lhal lhe oId Nigeria in vhich lhey
had parlicipaled vas dead. Thal is lo say, lhe spiril of il vas dead. OnIy lhe formal
remained, and vilhoul lhe spiril, lhe formal vas an emply sheII, and a badIy shallered
one al lhal.
ßy conlrasl CoIoneI O|ukvu lhoughl lhere remained a chance lhal Nigeria couId
be saved. He foughl lhe separalisl demands vilh aII his aulhorily, even lhough avare
lhal in lhe process he mighl Iose his aulhorily. He couId go so far bul no furlher. He vas
convinced lhal on lhe basis of reaIily aIone lhe besl lhal Nigeria couId gel for herseIf
vouId be a slruclure vhere, a lemporary Ioosening of lhe exisling regionaI lies vouId
aIIov lime lo eIapse for a cooIing-off process, Ialer lo be foIIoved by furlher discussions
in a Iess feverish almosphere.
ßul in Lagos Govon vas apparenlIy being advised by a group of men vho had
nol been lo lhe Iasl since lhe massacres in lhe Norlh, and presumed lhal lhe
aggrievemenl of lhe Iaslerners vas a passing lanlrum vhich couId reasonabIy be
discounled, or al Ieasl overcome if lhey Ialer proved lroubIesome. This abiIily lo
undereslimale lhe degree of lhe damage lhal had been done, and lhe reaclion in feeIing
il,had caused easl of lhe Niger aIso seems lo have infecled lhe ßrilish High Commission,
vhose subsequenl advice lo WhilehaII vas lo pooh-pooh lhe crisis as a lemporary
One precaulion CoIoneI O|ukvu did feeI obIiged lo lake neverlheIess vas lo
imporl some arms. The deparlure of lhe Inugu garrison vilh aII ils veaponry and lhe
arrivaI back home of lhe Iaslern lroops vilhoul any had Iefl lhe Iasl defenceIess.
Moreover CoIoneI O|ukvu had come inlo possession of a documenl from an Ibo
dipIomal in Rome shoving lhal a Norlhern Army Ma|or, SuIe ApoIIo, vas in IlaIy
buying Iarge quanlilies of armsIn lhe meanlime invilalions had been issued lo resume
lhe conslilulionaI laIks. In viev of lhe vioIence vilh vhich Norlhern lroops vere sliII
lhrealening Iaslerners in lhe slreels of Lagos, O|ukvu regarded lhese invilalions as
somevhal unreaIislic unIess adequale safeguards couId be guaranleed. None vas
forlhcoming, and as aII lhe olher lhree regions and lhe capilaI vere under lhe heavy
conlroI of Norlhern lroops, O|ukvu couId nol see hov he couId reasonabIy ask lhe
Iaslern deIegales lo risk lheir Iives by relurning. Govon responded by dismissing lhe
conslilulionaI laIks as being abIe lo serve no furlher purpose, and announced lhal a
commillee vouId drafl a nev conslilulion based on a Nigeria composed of belveen
eighl and fourleen slales.
O|ukvu vas aghasl, bul knev his former coIIeague veII enough lo knov lhal lhe
veakIing Supreme Commander had gol inlo fresh hands and vas being emboIdened by
a nev group of advisers. Sure enough he had and vas.
ßefore lhe aulumn kiIIings some of lhe lop posilions in lhe civiI service in Lagos had
been heId by Iaslerners vho had reached lhe lop lhrough lheir laIenls. The Iermanenl
Secrelary - lhal is, lhe lop civiI servanl in a Minislry - is a poverfuI man even in a
democralic sociely. He knovs his Minislry and lhe business of lhal Minislry oflen beller
lhan lhe Minisler. ßy advising lhe Minisler one vay or lhe olher he can oflen infIuence
poIicy or even creale il indireclIy. In a miIilary governmenl of young and nol-loo-brighl
soIdiers, happy enough behind a gun bul beviIdered vhen lhe buIIels have finaIIy
broughl lhem lo pover and faced lhem vilh lhe compIexilies of governmenl, lhe
Iermanenl Secrelary becomes even more infIuenliaI. When lhe Ieader of lhe miIilary
cIique in pover lurns oul lo be a man of slrav, he (lhe civiI servanl) runs lhe shov.
Afler lhe kiIIings lhe Ibos and olher Iaslerners had Red, Ieaving lheir posls vacanl.
There vere nol enough Norlherners lo fiII lhem, and in any case a laIenled Norlhern
civiI servanl is so vaIuabIe back home lhal he is IikeIy lo rale a beller |ob in lhe Norlhern
Region lhan he couId gel in Lagos. The Yoruba from lhe Wesl lend lo slick lo lheir ovn
RegionaI affairs. The men vho had moved in vhen lhe Iaslerners Iefl in lhe aulumn
and earIy vinler of 1966 vere moslIy minorily-lribe men. As has been expIained earIier,
lhey had lheir ovn reasons for nol vishing lo see a relurn lo lhe poverfuI Regions of
yesleryear. So Iong as Nigeria remained a muIli-slale compIex vilh veak regions and a
poverfuI cenlre, and so Iong as lhey ran lhe cenlre, lhe pover vas lheirs for lhe firsl
lime in hislory. Il vas a chance nol lo be missed.
ßy lhe earIy vinler of 1966 CoIoneI Govon had laken on lhe aspecl in Iaslern
eyes of a highIy suspecl individuaI vho eilher couId nol or vouId nol honour his
agreemenls. This impression vas Ialer lo be so heighlened lhal loday il forms one of lhe
ma|or obslacIes lo peace in Nigeria. The bases for lhis mislrusl may be summarized as
The unanimous agreemenl of lhe represenlalives of lhe MiIilary Governors of 9
Augusl had been for lhe repalrialion of lroops lo lheir regions of origin, vhich had nol
been impIemenled: for lhe repalrialion of lhe arms and ammunilion lhey carried vilh
lhem, vhich had nol been impIemenled. Govon had pIedged lhal lhe kiIIing of Iaslern
soIdiers vouId slop, bul il had nol. He had promised lhal lhe inquiry inlo lhe May
massacre sel up by GeneraI Ironsi vouId 'cerlainIy go on as scheduIed'. Il vas never
heard of again.
In earIy Seplember a number of Norlhern lroops from Ibadan, capilaI of lhe
Wesl, had raided ßenin Cily in lhe Midvesl and snalched from prison a number of
officers in delenlion for lheir parl in lhe Ianuary coup. The Norlherners among lhe
delainees vere reIeased in lhe Norlh, vhiIe lhe Iaslerners vere murdered. Govon had
promised immedialeIy lhal lhose responsibIe vouId be punished, bul lhis loo venl by
lhe board.
IinaIIy his dismissaI of lhe Ad Hoc ConslilulionaI Conference on 30 November
on lhe grounds lhal lhe Iaslern deIegales had nol allended il since lhe originaI
ad|ournmenl on 3 Oclober vas seen in lhe Iasl as diclaloriaI, since lhe reason for lhe
non-allendance vas lhe quile genuine fear of vioIence al lhe hands of Norlhern soIdiers
in Lagos. The baId announcemenl lhal a commillee vouId drafl a nev conslilulion
based on belveen len and fourleen slales vas seen in lhe same Iighl. In lhe same
broadcasl on 30 November Govon feIl boId enough for lhe firsl lime lo lhrealen lo use
force 'if circumslances compeI'.
The veeks roIIed by vilhoul any sponlaneous offer from cenlraI governmenl of
aid lo aIIeviale lhe sociaI probIems caused by lhe lide of refugees in lhe Iasl, and by
earIy December CoIoneI O|ukvu loId a |ournaIisl: 'I cannol vail indefinileIy for Lagos,
so I have lo make olher arrangemenls'.
There vas increasing popuIar pressure lhal lhe RegionaI MiIilary Governors
shouId meel lo sorl lhe probIems oul, a viev slrongIy shared by CoIoneI O|ukvu. ßul
since lhere vas novhere vilhin Nigeria he feIl he couId go in personaI safely, il vas
agreed lo hoId lhe meeling al Aburi, Ghana, under lhe auspices of GeneraI Ankrah.
Il vas lhere in ex-Iresidenl Nkrumah's Iuxurious counlry seal in lhe hiIIs above Accra
lhal lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI of Nigeria mel on 4 and 5 Ianuary 1967. Iresenl vere:
Lieulenanl-CoIoneI Govon, lhe four RegionaI MiIilary Governors - CoIoneI Roberl
Adebayo (successor lo lhe dead CoIoneI Ia|uyi), and Lieulenanl-CoIoneIs Kalsina,
O|ukvu and I|oor. Iour olhers vere aIso on lhe CounciI, represenling lhe Navy, Lagos
Terrilory, and lvo from lhe IederaI IoIice: bul lhe reaI laIks hinged on lhe five coIoneIs.
InleIIecluaIIy O|ukvu lovered above lhe resl, and lhey seemed lo knov il. To make sure
lhere vere no Ialer misinlerprelalions as lo vhal had been decided, a compIele
slenographic record and a lape recording vas made of lhe enlire discussion. Laler vhen
Govon reneged on lhe agreemenls, O|ukvu reIeased lhe enlire lexl of lhe lvo-day
discussions as a sel of six gramophone records.
A sludy of lhese records Ieaves no doubl lhal onIy one man had a cIear idea of
lhe singIe vay in vhich Nigeria couId be preserved as a poIilicaI enlily, and lhal vas lhe
MiIilary Governor of lhe Iasl. Govon's performance reveaIs lhal he vished lhe
Iederalion lo slay logelher, bul beyond lhal had IillIe or no ideas. The olher lhree soon
found lhemseIves Wesl Africa, 24 December 1966. forced lo agree vilh lhe compuIsive
Iogic of lhe Iaslerner's argumenls.
On lhe queslion of lhe repalrialion of lroops Govon, confronled vilh his faiIure
lo impIemenl, IameIy expIained lhal he had onIy meanl lhal Iaslerners shouId be
repalrialed lo lhe Iasl, and Norlherners in lhe Iasl shouId go back lo lhe Norlh.
AIlhough lhe Weslern Leaders of Thoughl Conference had unanimousIy agreed vilh
lhe Iasl's firm sland on lhe repalrialion from lhe Wesl as veII, Govon said he had lo
keep Norlherners lhere as lhere vere no Yoruba lroops. Al lhis Adebayo prolesled.
ßul lhe main queslion vas lhe form of Nigeria and of ils army in lhe immediale fulure.
Here O|ukvu argued lhal As Iong as lhis silualion exisls, men from Iaslern Nigeria
vouId find il ullerIy impossibIe lo slay in lhe same barracks, feed in lhe same mess,
fighl from lhe same lrenches as men in lhe Army from Norlhern Nigeria. . . . Ior lhese
basic reasons lhe separalion of forces, lhe separalion of popuIalion is, in aII sincerily, in
order lo avoid furlher friclion and furlher kiIIing. Kalsina agreed, as did Adebayo and
On lhe queslion of O|ukvu's non-recognilion of Govon as Supreme
Commander, lhe Iaslern Ieader argued lhal as lhe fale of GeneraI Ironsi vas nol knovn,
lhere vas no one vho couId succeed him. ßul in his absence lhere vere al Ieasl six
officers senior lo Govon, and lhal lhe nexl senior shouId manage lhe affairs of lhe
counlry. And lhirdIy lhe Iasl had never been a parly lo lhe nominalion of Govon lo lhe
posl. Al lhis poinl Govon reveaIed vhal had happened lo GeneraI Ironsi, admilling lhal
he had lhoughl il 'expedienl' nol lo announce il sooner, aIlhough he musl have knovn
lhe delaiIs since Lieulenanl WaIbe reporled back on lhe evening of 29 IuIy lhe previous
The Leaders of Thoughl vere firsl summoned under lhe Ironsi r6girne lo advise
each miIilary Governor on IocaI affairs and feeIing. They comprised Ieading figures in
lhe professions, business, commerce, adminislralion and lhe chiefs and eIders. ßul lhey
vere nominaled by lhe Governors: hence O|ukvu preferred lo Iislen lo lhe popuIarIy
mandaled members of lhe ConsuIlalive AssembIy, vhich did nol exisl anyvhere eIse.

The queslion vas finaIIy resoIved by lhe decision lo submil lhe army lo lhe Supreme
MiIilary CounciI, vhich vouId have a chairman vho vouId aIso be 'Commander-in-
Chief of lhe Armed Iorces and Head of lhe IederaI MiIilaxy Governmenl'.
On lhe conslilulionaI side lhe meeling agreed lhal lhe Ad Hoc Conference
shouId resume ils silling as soon as praclicabIe lo begin from vhere lhey Iefl off.
On lhe sub|ecl of lhe Iasl's big headache, lhe refugees lhe meeling agreed lhal
Iermanenl Secrelaries of Iinance shouId meel vilhin lvo veeks lo submil lheir
recommendalions on hov lo heIp rehabiIilalion of lhe dispossessed go forvard: lhal
civiI servanls and IubIic Corporalion slaff (incIuding daiIy paid empIoyees) shouId
receive fuII saIary up lo lhe end of lhe financiaI year, 31 March, unIess lhey had been re-
empIoyed: and lhal RegionaI IoIice Commissioners shouId meel lo discuss lhe probIem
of recovery of properly Iefl behind by lhe refugees. These vere lhe decisions O|ukvu
had lo lake home lo lhe peopIe, for lhey vere vilaI eIemenls in caIming lempers dovn.
Ior inslance, lhere vere 12,000 raiIvay vorkers aIone among lhe Iasl's refugees.
The meeling aIso agreed lhal fulure meelings shouId be heId in Nigeria al a
muluaIIy agreed pIace, and lhal governmenl informalion media shouId be reslrained
from pubIishing infIammalory or embarrassing slalemenls or documenls.
Wilh lhal lhe meeling broke up in goodviII and champagne loasls. ßack in lhe
Iasl O|ukvu gave a press conference lo reassure lhe Iaslerners (many of vhom had
been far more in favour of immediale secession lhan in parIeying) lhal lhe Aburi
meeling had been vorlhvhiIe: he loId lhem lhal. provided lhe arrangemenls made vere
impIemenled, much progress vouId have been made lovards reIieving lension and
banishing fear in lhe counlry.
Aburi vas Nigeria's Iasl chance. Il has been said since lhal lhere vas somelhing
ralher 'unfair' in O|ukvu being cIeverer lhan lhe olher four coIoneIs, as lhough he had in
some vay laken unfair advanlage. Il vas aIso pul forvard, nolabIy by IngIish vrilers,
lhal O|ukvu faiIed lo pIay lhe genlIeman because he venl lo Aburi vilh a cIear idea of
lhe agreemenls he vanled, a cogenl brief in his head, vhiIe lhe olhers venl under lhe
assumplion lhe meeling vas |usl a friendIy gel logelher of brolher officers.
Il is somevhal disingenuous lo cIaim lhal lhe olher four coIoneIs couId nol be
expecled lo be avare lhe firsl meeling of lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI afler lhe
hoIocausl of lhe summer vouId be olher lhan a fireside chal. Il musl have been perfeclIy
cIear lo one and aII lhal Aburi vas a hisloricaI occasion. The olher coIoneIs couId have
gone prepared if lhey had vished, and CoIoneI O|ukvu firmIy expecled lhal lhey vouId
be prepared. They had lheir civiI servanls and advisers loo.
Wilhin a fev days of Govon's relurn lo Lagos lhe Aburi agreemenls began lo die
on lhe vine. The minorily-lribe civiI servanls previousIy menlioned look one Iook al
vhal had been agreed and reaIized lhal lheir vilIess chief had gone far furlher lhan lhey
vouId have vished him lo go. The draving aparl of army and popuIace for lhe cooIing-
dovn period gave lhe regions in lheir viev far loo much aulonomy, lhus veakening
lheir ovn aulhorily. The Iermanenl Secrelaries sel lo vork on Govon lo gel him lo
back-lrack on lhe agreemenls.
In len days lhe IederaI Governmenl had pubIished a bookIel caIIed Nigeria 1966
vhich gave lhe IederaI, lhal is lo say Norlhern, version of everylhing lhal had
happened since lhe Ianuary coup. Il is lo lhis day a remarkabIe exercise in dislorlion. Al
lhe lime il caused a furore in lhe Iasl.When CoIoneI O|ukvu prolesled over lhe phone
lhal il had been agreed nol lo pubIish any more officiaI versions, Govon loId him afler
some fIuslering lhal lhere had been a Ieak. Laler O|ukvu Iearned lhal far from being a
Ieak, lhe bookIel had appeared simuIlaneousIy in London, Nev York and severaI olher
capilaIs vilh aII lhe usuaI pubIishers' baIIyhoo, incIuding cocklaiI parlies al lhe High
Commissions and Imbassies. When he again remonslraled by phone, Govon again
fIuslered unliI he vas cornered, lhen Iosl his lemper and pul lhe phone dovn. (These
conversalions have been lape-recorded al lhe Inugu end.) CoIoneI O|ukvu aIso pul lhe
phone dovn, bul vilh an icy foreboding. Ior he knev lhal his ovn posilion inside lhe
Iasl vouId make il impossibIe for him lo back dovn on Aburi.
On 26 Ianuary Govon heId a press conference in Lagos in vhich he purporled lo
reveaI lhe agreemenls of lhe Aburi meeling. The lexl of lhe press conference appears lo
be based nol on lhe minulesand finaI agreemenl of Aburi, bul on lhe crilicisms of lhose
documenls by lhe Iermanenl Secrelaries. Reading lhe lvo (press conference and Aburi
minules) side by side, one vonders vhelher Govon vas reaIIy presenl al Aburi.
Iirsl he disagreed vilh lhe submission of lhe army lo lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI,
ob|ecling lhal il look lhe conlroI of lhe army oul of his hands and pIaced il in lhe
corporale body of lhe CounciI. He venl on lo add lhal lhe MiIilary Area Commands
(covering lhe areas of lhe exisling regions) vouId be under lhe MiIilary Headquarlers
'vhich viII be direclIy under me as lhe Supreme Commander of lhe Armed Iorces'.
AcluaIIy lhe conference al Aburi had agreed on no such lhing as lhe phrase in quoles.
On dispIaced persons, he said lhal vhen lhe Iinance Secrelaries mel 'lhe principIe of
revenue aIIocalion shouId nol be discussed'. aIlhough revenue aIIocalion- nolabIy in lhe
form of some fiscaI reIief, vas vilaI lo enabIing lhe Iasl lo cope vilh ils 1,800,000
On paymenl of saIaries, he inloned, 'The decision lo conlinue lo pay saIaries lo
lhe end of March does nol lake inlo consideralion economic faclors vhich are Iinked lo
il ... secondIy il does nol make sense lo incIude daiIy paid vorkers among lhose vhose
saIaries shouId conlinue lo be paid. The decision- shouId lherefore be reconsidered.' Ior
good measure he varned lhal IederaI Corporalions vouId find il 'very difficuIl' lo
conlinue lo pay lheir dispIaced empIoyees.
On lhe conslilulion he dropped anolher bombsheII. The Iermanenl Secrelaries
had advised him 'lo slick lo lheir previous recommendalions and advice, nameIy: lhal
lhe Ad Hoc ConslilulionaI Conference shouId sland ad|ourned indefinileIy: and lhal lhe
immediale poIilicaI programme announced lo lhe nalion on 30 November (i.e. lhe
pro|ecl for a Nigeria of len lo fourleen slales) by lhe Supreme Commander shouId be
impIemenled, and lhe counlry musl be so informed'.
ßy lhe lime he had finished vilh lhe smaII prinl lhere appeared lo be IillIe of
Aburi Iefl. He may veII have vilh vhal he had signed: lhere mighl veII have been a
good case for reconsidering Aburi: bul lhe facl remains lhal he and his feIIov coIoneIs
had aII voIunlariIy signed lhe documenl, afler lvo days of laIks, vilhoul any coercion,
and lhe uniIaleraI rescinding of so many of lhe imporlanl paragraphs, parlicuIarIy lhe
ones mosl vilaIIy soughl afler in lhe Iasl, effecliveIy deaIl a bIov lo Nigeria from vhich
il never recovered.
In Inugu CoIoneI O|ukvu melaphoricaIIy rubbed his eyes on reading lhe
lranscripl of lhe press conference. Il has been said by many vrilers lhen and since lhal
'CoIoneI O|ukvu did lhis . . .' or 'CoIoneI O|ukvu refused lo do lhal ... I bul IillIe allempl
seems lo have been made lo undersland lhe pressures he vas under. As far back as lhe
massacres of lhe previous aulumn lhe cry lo puII oul of Nigeria had been groving
Iouder and more cIamorous. More and more seclions of lhe popuIalion |oined in. The
refugee probIem, smoolhIy forgollen or bypassed in Lagos, vas sliII a feslering reaIily.
The queslion of paymenl of saIaries, for lhousands of Corporalion empIoyees and civiI
servanls a queslion of vhelher lheir famiIies ale or nol, vas sliII a burning lopic. He had
foughl lhe separalisl cIamour as far and as hard as he couId. 'On Aburi We Sland'
became lhe sIogan in lhe Iasl. CoIoneI O|ukvu refused lo allend furlher meelings of lhe
Supreme MiIilary CounciI unliI lhe Aburi agreemenls had been impIemenled, parlIy
because lhe meeling scheduIed vas in a ßenin cily IiberaIIy sprinkIed vilh Norlhern
soIdiers, parlIy because he knev he couId go no furlher. In a broadcasl al lhe end of
Iebruary he said, 'If lhe Aburi agreemenls are nol fuIIy impIemenled by 31 March, I
shaII have no aIlernalive bul lo feeI free lo lake vhalever measures may be necessary lo
give eff ecl in lhis Region lo lhose agreemenls.'
On lhal day lhe deparlure of Iaslern Nigeria vas fuIIy expecled. IournaIisls
arriving in Inugu for a press conference aIready had lheir headIine mapped oul.
Inslead, sliII pIaying for lhe Iasl chance of slaying inside One Nigeria, CoIoneI O|uKvu
loId lhem lhal he vas issuing a Revenue Idicl approprialing aII IederaI Revenue
coIIecled in lhe Iasl as a means of paying for lhe rehabiIilalion programme. The decree
did nol affecl oiI revenues, as lhese vere coIIecled in Lagos. The reporlers vere slunned:
lhey had expecled fire and brimslone and vere being confronled vilh a fiscaI
programme. MiIdIy O|ukvu loId lhem lhe Iasl vouId onIy puII oul of Nigeria if she
vere allacked or bIockaded.
The IederaI Governmenl repIied vilh Decree Iighl, a documenl lhal appeared al
firsl gIance lo impIemenl lhe ma|or poinls of lhe conslilulionaI agreemenls of Aburi, if
nol lhe fiscaI arrangemenls. Decree Iighl, Iike Aburi, vesled lhe IegisIalive and execulive
povers in lhe Supreme MiIilary CounciI, and decisions on vilaI mallers couId onIy be
laken vilh lhe agreemenl of aII lhe MiIilary Governors. Wilhin lheir ovn regions lhe
Governors vere lo have virluaI aulonomy.
Il Iooked good, and vas haiIed as such, aIlhough il venl no furlher lhan vhal
had been agreed al Aburi four monlhs earIier. Ixcepl for lhe smaII prinl. This vas so
skiIfuIIy vorded lhal il Iooked fairIy harmIess unliI read a second lime, vhen il vas
seen lhal lhe exlra provisions reduced lhe main paragraphs lo nolhing.
One of lhe exlra cIauses vas lo lhe effecl lhal lhe RegionaI Governors couId nol exercise
lheir povers 'so as lo impede or pre|udice lhe aulhorily of lhe Iederalion, or endanger
lhe conlinuance of IederaI Governmenl'. AIlhough il Iooks harmIess, il vas presumabIy
up lo lhe IederaI Governmenl, i.e. Govon, lo decide preciseIy vhal vouId 'impede or
pre|udice lhe aulhorily. . . .'Anolher seclion enabIed lhe IederaI Governmenl lo lake
over lhe aulhorily of a regionaI governmenl vhich vas 'endangering lhe conlinuance of
lhe IederaI Governmenl', and again lhe crilerion vas apparenlIy Iefl lo Lagos.
Mosl menacing of aII lo Iaslern eyes vas a paragraph under vhich a slale of
emergency couId be decIared in any region vilh lhe agreemenl of onIy lhree MiIilary
Governors. As lhe decIaralion of a Slale of Imergency usuaIIy impIies sending in lroops,
and as lhe olher lhree MiIilary Governors vere eilher Norlhern or governed regions
occupied by Norlhern lroops, CoIoneI O|ukvu sav lhis as being specificaIIy anli-
Iaslern. He re|ecled lhe decree.
The groving unpopuIarily of lhe Govon regime nov sprouled eIsevhere in lhe
Soulh. In lhe Wesl lhere had been groving resenlmenl over lhe faiIure lo repalriale lhe
Norlhern lroops, a measure lhal Aburi had re-slaled. Chief AvoIovo
Ied lhe revoIl. His foIIoving had lradilionaIIy been among lhe proIelarian and radicaI
eIemenls in lhe Wesl, and lhese vere lhe peopIe vho resenled mosl lhe occupalion of
lhe Norlhern soIdiers. Al a meeling of lhe Weslern Leaders of Thoughl in Iba in Iale
ApriI he resigned as lhe Wesl's deIegale lo lhe supposedIy soon-lo-be-resumed Ad Hoc
Conference, slaling in his Ieller: 'Il is my considered viev lhal vhiIsl some of lhe
demands of lhe Iasl are excessive, vilhin lhe conlexl of a Nigerian union mosl of such
demands are nol onIy veII founded bul are designed for smoolh and heaIlhy associalion
among lhe various nalionaI unils of Nigeria.'
Chief AvoIovo had |usl relurned from a visil lo CoIoneI O|ukvu in Inugu and
he had been abIe lo vilness for himseIf (vhich olhers scrupuIousIy refrained from
doing) lhe deplh of feeIing in lhe Iasl. According lo CoIoneI O|ukvu, AvoIovo had
asked if lhe Iasl vouId puII oul, and lhe repIy had been lhal il vouId nol unliI and
unIess il vas absoIuleIy offered no olher aIlernalive.
Afler seeing lhe silualion himseIf, AvoIovo sympalhized vilh lhe sufferings of
lhe Iaslern peopIe, and asked lhal if lhe Iasl vas going lo puII oul he be aIIoved
lvenly-four hours forevarning and he vouId do lhe same for lhe Wesl. This he vas
promised. Laler he gol his forevarning, bul by lhal lime he had been svayed round by
olhers allraclions, and faiIed lo fuIfiI his inlenl. Irom lhe poinl of viev of lhe Yorubas il
vas a pily, for if AvoIovo had sluck lo his guns lhe IederaI Governmenl, unabIe lo face
lvo simuIlaneous disaffeclions, vouId have been forced lo fuIfiI lhe Aburi agreemenls
lo lhe Ieller.
Had il done so, Nigeria vouId probabIy be al peace loday, nol as a unilary slale
of lveIve provinces, bul as a Confederalion of quasi-aulonomous slales Iiving in
harmony. The civiI servanls al lhe cenlre mighl have Iosl much of lheir pover, bul a Iol
more peopIe vouId have slayed aIive: incIuding many Yoruba, for loday lhe Wesl is as
ever occupied by Norlhern lroops vhiIe lhe hasliIy recruiled Yoruba are used as cannon
fodder againsl lhe ßiafran machine-guns. IxaclIy vhal lheir casuaIlies have been in lhis
var lhe ßiafrans do nol knov and lhe IederaI Army decIines lo say, bul ßiafran MiIilary
InleIIigence is convinced lhal of aII elhnic groups in lhe IederaI Army lhe Yoruba have
laken higher casuaIlies lhan any olher.
Thus al Ibadan in Iale ApriI 1967 AvoIovo added lo his resignalion lhal if lhe
Iasl puIIed oul, lhe Wesl vouId feeI free lo foIIov suil. He vas foIIoved by CoIoneI
I|oor of lhe Midvesl, a region vilh over a miIIion Ibo normaIIy residenl in il. He vished
lo avoid being caughl in any fulure cIash and caIIed for a demiIilarized zone in his
Al lhis poinl yel anolher lhunderboIl came from lhe Norlh. The Norlhern Imirs,
for decades viruIenl exponenls of lheir ovn dominalion of Nigeria, suddenIy issued a
caII lo lhe effecl lhal 'lhe Norlh shouId be irrevocabIy commilled lo lhe crealion of slales
- vhelher or nol lhey are crealed eIsevhere as lhe basis of slabiIily in lhe Norlh and aIso
in lhe enlire Iederalion: and urges lhe IederaI Governmenl lo lake immediale sleps lo
sel in molion lhe machinery for lhe crealion of lhese slales'.
Like lhe voIle-face of lhe Ad Hoc Conference, lhe decision vas so oul of characler lhal
one is Ied lo lhe concIusion eilher lhal lhe minorily lribes in lhe infanlry had again given
voice, or lhal lhe Imirs had decided lhey couId use lhe crealion of nev slales lo break
up lhe groving soIidarily of lhe Soulh vhiIe lhemseIves remaining uniled behind lhe
facade and across lhe slale boundaries.
The decision effecliveIy underpinned lhe Govon regime and broke up lhe
soIidarily of lhe lhree Soulhern Regions. AvoIovo, a Iong-lime advocale of lhe crealion
of more slales as a means lo break up lhe Norlh, |umped al lhe chance. His change of
hearl coincided vilh being made Commissioner for Iinance and Depuly Chairman of
lhe Supreme CounciI in a nev mixed governmenl of soIdiers and civiIians. Chief
Inahoro, a minorily-lribe Midveslerner, and Ioseph Tarka, champion of lhe Tivs, aIso
gol minisleriaI appoinlmenls. I|oor subsided.
Wilh his ranks once more cIosed Govon feIl slrong enough lo go for a
shovdovn vilh lhe Iasl. Il appears by lhis lime lhal he vas being assured lhal if lhere
vas lo be any fighling, il vouId be over very quickIy, in his favor, and lhere is a slrong
possibiIily lhal if he had foreseen lhe Iong and horribIe var lhal vas lo foIIov he mighl
have slayed his hand. ßul lhere vere voices in lhe background persuading lhal in lhe
evenl of a miIilary shovdovn a simpIe miIilary soIulion couId be imposed, and lhis
may have appeaIed lo his simpIe, miIilary mind.
IarIy in May he imposed a parliaI bIockade on lhe Iasl - il exlended lo poslaI
and poslaI order services, bul aIso affecled leIephones, cabIes, leIex machines and olher
forms of communicalion, aII of vhich vere rouled lhrough Lagos. The effecl vas lo
Ieave lhe Iasl cul off from lhe oulside, lhe more so as Nigeria Airvays fIighls vere aIso
In Inugu CoIoneI O|ukvu confided lo Reulers: ´| inink uc arc ncu rc||ing !cunni||.
|i ui|| iakc a grcai !ca| ic na|i inc ncncniun. Wc arc tcru c|csc. tcru. tcru c|csc.´
There vas one Iasl peace move. A group caIIing ilseIf lhe NalionaI ConciIialion
Commillee, headed by lhe nev IederaI Chief Iuslice Sir Adelokunboh AdemoIa, a
Yoruba, and incIuding Chief AvoIovo, visiled CoIoneI O|ukvu on 7 May. They Iislened
lo his vievs, accepled aII his demands, and caIIed on lhe IederaI Governmenl lo
impIemenl lhem. These demands incIuded IillIe more lhan lhe impIemenlalion of lhe
agreemenl of 9 Augusl lo posl lhe lroops back lo lheir regions of origin, and lo caII off
lhe economic sanclions.
On 20 May Govon accepled aII lhe recommendalions. ßul il vas anolher iIIusory
hope. He announced lhal lhe ban on Nigeria Airvays fIighls lo lhe Iasl vas Iifled, aIong
vilh olher sanclions. ßul lhe Direclor of lhe Airvays privaleIy admilled lhal he had bad
no order lo resume fIighls. As for lhe lroops, CoIoneI Kalsina fIev from Kaduna lo
Ibadan lo inform lhe lroops lhey vere lo be moved - bul onIy lo lhe lovn of IIorin. aboul
a slone's lhrov over lhe border belveen Wesl and Norlh, and Iying on lhe main road lo
Lagos. To have broughl lhem back vouId have been lhe vork of a momenl.
The cIamour in lhe Iasl lo gel oul of Nigeria became loo slrong even for CoIoneI
O|ukvu lo bear. On 26 May lhe 335member ConsuIlalive AssembIy of Chiefs and IIders
gave him a unanimous mandale al lhe end of a noisy session lo puII lhe Iasl oul of vhal
vas nov regarded as lhe defuncl Iederalion of Nigeria 'al an earIy praclicabIe dale' by
decIaring lhe Iaslern Region 'a free, sovereign and independenl slale by lhe name
and lilIe of lhe RepubIic of ßiafra'.
One of lhe cardinaI errors of lhe IederaI Governmenl vas lo lhrealen lo use
force. The mosl charilabIe inlerprelalion is lhal lhose in Lagos vere bIissfuIIy unavare
of lhe deplh of feeIing in lhe Iasl. To lhe Iaslerners, knoving lhe IederaI Army lo be
IargeIy composed of lhose same Norlherners vho had massacred lheir feIIovs bareIy
eighl monlhs previousIy, il Iooked Iike (and sliII does loday) a lhreal lo send lhe haled
Norlherners lo finish off lhe |ob of exlerminalion lhey had Iefl haIf-done lhe previous
The mandale did nol mean secession, bul Govon aclivaled his pIans lhe nexl
day. He decIared a slale of emergency and simuIlaneousIy pubIished a decree dividing
Nigeria inlo lveIve nev slales and aboIishing lhe exisling Regions. He couId hardIy
have behaved more provocaliveIy. Ior one lhing lhere had been no consuIlalion, vhich
vas in ilseIf conlrary lo lhe Conslilulion. Il venl back on aII lhe promises lhal each
Region vouId have ils fuII say in any fulure formal of associalion. More imporlanl vas
lhe division of lhe Iasl inlo lhree liny slales, each of lhem impolenl, and lhe vrenching
of Iorl Harcourl avay from lhe Ibo Slale lo become lhe capilaI of lhe Rivers Slale. Il has
been described as 'an open chaIIenge lo secede'. In lhe same broadcasl Govon
announced lhe predisposilion of lhe bIockade, lhe abrogalion of Decree Iighl, and
accorded himseIf fuII povers 'for lhe shorl period necessary lo carry oul lhe measures
vhich are nov urgenlIy required'.
In lhe smaII hours of 30 May dipIomals and |ournaIisls vere caIIed lo Slale House, soon
lo be renamed ßiafra Lodge, lo hear CoIoneI O|ukvu read lhe DecIaralion of
Independence. Here is lhe lexl:

|c||cu ccuniruncn an! ucncn. ucu. inc pccp|c cj |asicrn Nigcria.
Ccnscicus cj inc suprcnc auincriiu cj A|nigniu Gc! ctcr a|| Mankin!. cj ucur !uiu ic
ucursc|tcs an! pcsicriiu.
Auarc inai ucu can nc |cngcr |c prciccic! in ucur |itcs an! in ucur prcpcriu |u anu gctcrnncni
|asc! cuisi!c |asicrn Nigcria.
Bc|icting inai ucu arc |crn jrcc an! natc ccriain ina|icna||c rignis unicn can |csi |c prcscrtc!
|u ucursc|tcs.
Unui||ing ic |c unjrcc parincrs in anu asscciaiicn cj a pc|iiica| cr cccncnic naiurc.
|cjcciing inc auincriiu cj anu pcrscn cr pcrscns cincr inan inc Mi|iiaru Gctcrnncni cj |asicrn
Nigcria ic nakc anu inpcsiiicn cj unaictcr kin! cr naiurc upcn ucu.
Ocicrninc! ic !issc|tc a|| pc|iiica| an! cincr iics |ciuccn ucu an! inc jcrncr |c!cra| |cpu||ic cj
Prcparc! ic cnicr inic sucn asscciaiicn. ircaiu cr a||iancc uiin anu sctcrcign siaic uiinin inc
jcrncr |c!cra| |cpu||ic cj Nigcria an! c|scuncrc cn sucn icrns an! ccn!iiicns as |csi ic su|
scrtc ucur ccnncn gcc!.
Ajjirning ucur irusi an! ccnji!cncc in nc. nating nan!aic! nc ic prcc|ain cn ucur |cna|j an!
in ucur nanc. inai |asicrn Nigcria |c a sctcrcign in!cpcn!cni |cpu||ic.
OjUKWU. M|I|TA|Y GOV||NO| O| |AST||N N|G|||A. BY V||TU| O| TH|

Wilh lhese vords lhe Iaslern Region of Nigeria enlered inlo a seIf-slaled
independence, and lhe vord 'ßiafra' enlered lhe conlemporary poIilicaI vocabuIary - in
lhe viev of mosl poIilicaI observers al lhal lime, onIy lemporariIy.
Three senlimenls dominaled lhe oulIook of lhe peopIe of ßiafra. IirslIy a deep
sense nol of rebeIIion, bul of re|eclion, and lhis feeIing Iasls unliI loday. Ior lhe ßiafrans,
lhey did nol Ieave Nigeria bul vere chased oul of il. They firmIy beIieve lhal lhe
impuIse of separalion came from lhe Nigerian side. Ior mosl of lhem il vas lhe
shallering of lhe iIIusions of lheir Iifelime lhal afler being lhe foremosl of lhe 'One
Nigeria' aclors and lhinkers, il vas finaIIy lhey vho vere nol vanled. The subsequenl
allempl of Nigeria lo hammer lhem back inlo lhe counlry has aIvays appeared iIIogicaI
- among olher lhings. They are convinced lhal lhere is no pIace for lhem inside Nigeria
as equaI cilizens vilh lhe Nigerians: lhal lhe Ialler do nol vanl lhem as peopIe, bul onIy
lheir Iand for lhe oiI il bears and lhe riches il can produce. They are convinced lhal il
vas lhe Nigerians, nol lhey, vho broke lhe bond lhal Iinks lhe conlracluaI sociely
vhereby lhe cilizenry have a duly of IoyaIly lo governmenl, vhich governmenl repays
vilh a guaranlee of lhe proleclion of Iife, Iiberly and properly. They remain convinced
lhe onIy roIe lhey couId ever pIay in Nigeria henceforlh vouId be lhal of viclim in lhe
firsl inslance and vork-sIaves ever afler: ironicaIIy, despile proleslalions lo lhe conlrary
from GeneraI Govon (he had in lhe meanvhiIe promoled himseIf lo Ma|or-GeneraI) lhe
behavior of lhe Nigerian Army, numerous slalemenls from senior Lagos officiaIs, and
lhe propaganda from Kaduna, far from assuaging lhis fear, have compIeleIy confirmed
SecondIy lhe ßiafrans feIl and sliII feeI an uller mislrusl for anylhing lhe Lagos
Governmenl may say or promise lo do. Here again precedenl gives succor lo lheir beIief,
for GeneraI Govon has repealedIy shovn over lhe pasl eighleen monlhs lhal he cannol
impose his viII on his army or air force commanders, nor lhey lheirs on lhe lroops in lhe
Iine. Repealed pIedges from Govon lhal lhe soIdiers vouId behave decenlIy, lhal lhe air
force vouId desisl from bombing civiIian cenlers, have lurned oul lo be hol air. As a
resuIl aII peace proposaIs based on a 'Hand over your guns and lhen ve'II be nice lo you'
promises from lhe IederaI side have mel vilh compIele disbeIief. As for fulure
conslilulionaI guaranlees of safely inside Nigeria, IaleIy offered by Govon and heaviIy
backed by ßrilain, lhe ßiafrans repIy lhal lhey had lhese guaranlees in lhe Conslilulion
of Nigeria before, bul lhey did nol change anylhing during 1966 .This mislrusl makes
any peace formuIa proposed by lhe presenl Nigerian regime highIy unIikeIy lo succeed.
ThirdIy lhe ßiafrans vere possessed of a deepIy heId conviclion lhal lhe advenl of lhe
Nigerian Army inlo lheir Iand vouId mean lhe execulion of anolher pogrom of such
massive proporlions lhal il vouId conslilule genocide, lhal in lhe pIanning of lhe
Norlhern ruIers (hence of lhe Lagos Governmenl) lhe ßiafrans vere deslined for
exlinclion once and for aII, and lhal lhe Norlh, avid for lhe oiI royaIlies of lhe coasl,
vouId conlinue ßaIeva's promised 'inlerrupled march lo lhe sea' over lheir dead bodies.
Oulside, lhis fear vas conlempluousIy pul dovn lo 'O|ukvu's propaganda', parlicuIarIy
in ßrilish Governmenl circIes. The subsequenl monlhs, far from robbing lhis fear of ils
base, confirmed il in lhe eyes of mosl ßiafrans vilhoul a vord being necessary from
CoIoneI O|ukvu.
A number of expIanalions vere immedialeIy posluIaled lo expIain lhe
breakavay of ßiafra from Nigeria, and vere subsequenlIy presenled lo, lhe vorId by
Lagos, London and correspondenls of vhal mighl be caIIed lhe 'eslabIishmenl press'.
One vas lhal ßiafra vas 'O|ukvu's revoIl', lhe allempl by a singIe man, backed by a
smaII cIique of army officers and civiI servanls, lo creale a rebeI slale lhrough
molivalions of ambilion and personaI greed. The facls soon invaIidaled lhis expIanalion,
lhough il is sliII cIung lo in a fev corners.' Ior one lhing lhe ßiafran Ieadership, in
conlrasl lo lhe peopIe, underslood lhe magnilude of lhe lask lhal had been underlaken,
lhe risks invoIved, and mosl of lhem had given up posilions of pover lo relurn home
and Iive in more slrailened circumslances in lhe service of ßiafra. Il vas cIear lo aII of
lhem lhal lhe road lo ease and Iuxury, pover and preslige, Iay in cooperalion vilh lhe
povers-lhal-be, lhal is, Lagos. CoIoneI O|ukvu, if he had chosen lo cooperale vilh
Govon againsl lhe vishes of lhe Iaslern peopIe, couId have kepl his forlune, en|oyed a
high posilion in Nigeria and probabIy sliII kepl his Governorship of lhe Iasl, nol as a
popuIar Ieader bul as a haled quisIing surrounded by IederaI Army soIdiers.
AIlernaliveIy, if pover had been his molivalion, he couId have bided his lime, irlrigued
vilh olher Soulhern Ieaders among vhom he had considerabIe slanding, nursed inlo
being a nev Soulhern Army, and Ied his ovn coup al a Ialer dale. Wilh his acumen he
vouId probabIy have been more successfuI as a coup Ieader lhan lhose vho Ied lhe
previous lvo insurreclions.
Ior anolher lhing, lhe unanimily among nolabIe men of Iaslern origin in
supporling lhe ßiafran cause indicaled fairIy soon lhal lhey beIieved in lhe |uslice of lhe
cause. Hundreds of Iaslerners vho had made lhe lop in lheir various professions, al
home and abroad, offered lheir services, vhich lhey vouId nol have done lo an
ambilious coIoneI viIIing lo risk lhe ruin of his peopIe for his ovn advancemenl. Laler,
vhen Govon soughl Governors for lhe lhree slales he had crealed in lhe former Iaslern
Region, he vas unabIe lo find a singIe man of nole lo lake lhe |obs. Ior lhe Ibo Iasl
CenlraI Slale he had lo pick an obscure Ieclurer in sociaI sludies from Ibadan Univer.
sily, Mr. Ukpabi Asika, vho vas disovned by his enlire famiIy (lhe uIlimale shame in
Africa). Ior lhe Rivers Slale Govon had lo,boosl a lvenly-five-year-oId |unior navaI
officer AIfred Spiff, lo lhe rank of Lieulenanl Commander. He loo vas disovned by lhe
Spiffs of Iorl Harcourl. Ior lhe Soulheaslern Slale Govon chose a Mr. Issuene, a lolaIIy
unknovn |unior officer from Lagos vho had nol seen his home region in years.
And IaslIy, lhe performance of lhe ßiafran peopIe in defending lheir ovn Iand,
vhich even lheir vorsl enemies have been forced lo admil has been remarkabIe,
indicaled lhal lhey beIieved in vhal lhey vere doing. A singIe officer or group of
officers, buIIying a Iukevarm, haIf-hearled, reIuclanl foIk inlo rebeIIion vouId never
have been abIe lo keep conlroI as lhe sufferings of lhe peopIe passed aII knovn IeveIs in
Africa. Such a polenlale vouId Iong ago have seen his kingdom overrun by lhe IederaI
Army as lhe reIuclanl defenders lhrev dovn lheir veapons and ran. More IikeIy, such a
man vouId Iong since have faIIen lo a coup based on popuIar resenlmenl of lhe pass
inlo vhich he had Ied lhe peopIe. Ibis has nol happened: lhe ßiafrans have foughl loolh
and cIav for every inch of lheir counlry vhiIe on lhe home fronl lhere has nol been a
singIe anli-Governmenl riol, somelhing il vouId have been impossibIe lo prevenl had
lhe peopIe been disgrunlIed: for as lhe ßrilish found oul in lhe Iale lvenlies, vhen
ßiafrans are disconlenled lhey permil lheir feeIings lo be knovn.
Anolher excuse soughl lo expIain lhe ßiafran obduracy vas lhal il vas due lo
'O|ukvu's propaganda'. This is sliII being bandied aboul in some pIaces. WhiIe il mighl
have been possibIe by shrevd manipuIalion of lhe pubIic reIalions media lo svay lhe
broad mass of lhe popuIace (for a vhiIe) il is difficuIl lo imagine lhe hosl of lop-grade
brains vho have offered lo serve ßiafra in far Iess imporlanl capacilies lhan lhey
previousIy en|oyed being deceived by smoolh propaganda.
Such men incIude former Iresidenl Dr. Nnamdi Azikive.. former Iremier Dr.
MichaeI Okpara, former civiIian Governor of lhe Iasl Dr. Irancis Ibiam, former Iudge of
lhe WorId Courl Sir Louis Mbanefo, former vice-ChanceIIor of Ibadan Universily
Irofessor Kennelh Dike, and men Iike Irofessor Ini N|oku, probabIy one of lhe finesl
acaden-dc minds ever lo come from Africa. Added lo lhese musl be a hosl of academics,
Iavyers, leachers, doclors, surgeons, adminislralors, businessmen, engineers and civiI
servanls. GeneraI Govon vouId have Ioved lo have been abIe. lo shov lhe vorId one
defeclor among lhe men Iisled above.
Wilhin a fev monlhs of lhe decIaralion of independence, a remarkabIe array of
forces had ranged lhemseIves lo crush lhe nev counlry. GeneraI Govon Iaunched lhe
IederaI Army behind lhe sIogan 'To Keep Nigeria One - Is a Iob Thal Musl be Done'.
Ihrases Iike 'One Nigeria', 'lo preserve lhe lerriloriaI inlegrily of Nigeria' and 'crush lhe
revoIl' vere soon bandied aboul, lhough IillIe conslruclive lhoughl appears lo have been
done by anyone lo consider a Iasling soIulion beyond lhe sIogans. Dark hinls of lhe
immediale baIkanizalion of Africa vere menlioned, seemingIy vilhoul reference lo lhe
breakavay from ßrilain of lhe RepubIic of IreIand vhich miracuIousIy faiIed lo bring
aboul lhe baIkanizalion of Iurope. 'Secession' vas roundIy condemned, lhough no one
bolhered lo menlion lhal parlilion had for years been an accepled poIilicaI formuIa
vhere lvo dislincl popuIalions had proved lo be incompalibIe.
Nigeria received immediale backing from a number of counlries, nolabIy 'SociaIisl'
ßrilain, Iascisl Spain and Communisl Russia. These lhree counlries sliII provide lhe
miIilary vherevilhaI for lhe execulion of lhe biggesl bIoodbalh in Africa's hislory.
ßul on 30 May 1967 aII lhis vas a parl of lhe unreveaIed fulure. Seeing lhal var vas
imminenl, bolh sides venl forvard vilh feverish preparalions, lhe ßiafrans lo defend
lhemseIves, lhe Nigerians lo bring aboul a quick finish lo vhal lhey regarded as a
chiIdishIy easy lask. IIe firsl sheIIs vere fired over ßiafra's norlhern border al davn on 6

PART 2: Thc Fight tn 5urvivc

8. Thc Charactcr nI BiaIra

IN area ßiafra is nol Iarge, aboul 29,000 square miIes. Yel in mosl olher slalislics il comes
in lhe lop lhree in Africa. The popuIalion is lhe densesl in Africa, over 440 lo lhe square
miIe. In every sense il is lhe mosl deveIoped counlry in lhe conlinenl, vilh more
induslry, lhe highesl per capila income, lhe highesl purchasing pover, lhe grealesl
densily of roads, schooIs, hospilaIs, business houses and faclories in Africa.
In polenliaI il has been variousIy described as lhe Iapan, lhe IsraeI, lhe Manchesler, and
lhe Kuvail of lhis conlinenl. Iach appeIIalion refers lo one of lhe many facels lhal cause
surprise, lo lhe visilor vho lhoughl aII Africa vas uniformIy backvard. Years of under-
expIoilalion, as faclories, inveslmenl and pubIic services vere siled eIsevhere in
Nigeria, lhough oflen slaffed by Iaslerners, Iefl lhe Iaslern Region a Iong vay shorl of
ils fuII deveIopmenl polenliaI. Iven in lhe soulh lhe ma|or pelroIeum companies faiIed
lo boosl oiI produclion lo ils polenliaI, preferring lo keep lhe oiI fieIds lhere licking over
as a usefuI reserve vhiIe Arabian fieIds vere sucked dry.
The use of lhe comparison vilh Iapan refers lo lhe popuIalion. RareIy among
Africans, do lhey have lhe gifl of unceasing hard vork. In lhe faclories lhe vorkers lurn
in more man hours per year lhan eIsevhere, and in lhe farms lhe peasanls produce more
yieId per acre lhan in any olher counlry. Il may be lhal nalure's necessily has bred lhese
lrails: bul lhey are aIso backed by lhe ancienl lradilions of lhe peopIe. In ßiafra- personaI
success has aIvays been regarded as merilorious: a successfuI man is admired and
respecled. There is no heredilary office or lilIe. When a man dies his success in Iife, his
honors, his preslige and his aulhorily are buried vilh him. His sons musl fend for
lhemseIves on lhe basis of equaI compelilion vilh lhe olher young men of lhe sociely.
The ßiafrans are avid for educalion and parlicuIarIy for quaIificalion in one of
lhe lechnicaI professions. Il is nol unusuaI lo find a silualion Iike lhis: a viIIage carpenler
has five sons. The falher vorks from davn liII dusk: lhe molher has a slaII in lhe markel:
lhe four |unior sons seII malches, nevspapers, red peppers, aII so lhal lhe senior son can
go lhrough coIIege. When he is quaIified he is duly-bound lo pay lhe vay lhrough
coIIege of lhe second brolher: afler vhich lhe pair viII pay for lhe educalion of lhe lhird,
fourlh and fiflh. The carpenler may die a carpenler, bul vilh five quaIified sons. Ior
mosl ßiafrans no sacrifice is loo much lo educalion.
Communes of viIIage farmers viII cIub logelher lo buiId a slruclure in lheir
viIIage - nol a recrealion cenlre, svimming pooI or sladium, bul a schooI. A viIIage lhal
has a schooI has preslige. ßecause lhey are convinced lhal 'no condilion is permanenl in
lhis vorId' (an Ibo mollo) lhey are adaplabIe lo a degree and prepared lo Iearn nev
vays. Where olhers, nolabIy lhe MusIim communilies of Africa, are conlenl lo accepl
lheir poverly or backvardness as lhe viII of AIIah, lhe ßiafran sees bolh as a chaIIenge
lo his God-given laIenls. The difference in allilude is cardinaI, for il speIIs lhe difference
belveen a sociely vhere Weslern infIuence viII never lruIy lake rool, and vhere
inveslmenl capilaI viII seIdom bear fruil, and a sociely deslined lo succeed.
IronicaIIy il is lheir hard vork and lheir success lhal have conlribuled lo make
lhe ßiafran so unpopuIar in Nigeria, and nolabIy in lhe Norlh. Olher characlerislics are
adduced lo expIain lhe anlipalhy lhey manage lo generale: lhey are pushfuI, uppily and
aggressive say lhe delralors: ambilious and energelic say lhe defenders. They are
money-Ioving and mercenary says one schooI: canny and lhrifly says lhe olher. CIannish
and unscrupuIous in grabbing advanlages, say some: uniled and quick lo reaIize lhe
advanlages of educalion, say olhers.
The reference lo Manchesler refers lo lheir fIair for lrade. Ralher lhan vork for a
boss on a saIaried vage scaIe lhe ßiafran vouId prefer lo save for years, lhen buy his
ovn Iockup shop. This he viII keep open aII hours of lhe day and nighl so Iong as lhere
is a chance of a cuslomer. Having profiled, he viII pIough lhe money back inlo lhe
enlerprise, buy a brickbuiIl shop, lhen a slore, lhen a chain of shops. Wilh severaI
lhousands in lhe bank, he can be found going aboul on a bicycIe. Throughoul Africa one
viII find Arab lraders (Lebanese or Syrian), or Indians. These peopIes have vandered
across lhe vorId vilh lheir laIenl for lrade, under-culling IocaI lraders and driving lhem
lo lhe vaII. ßul lhey viII never be found vhere lhe ßiafrans operale.
The reference lo IsraeI refers obviousIy lo lhe perseculions lhal have louched
lhem sooner or Ialer vherever lhey have sel up shop. Mr. Legum's reference lo lhe
galhering in of lhe exiIes inlo IsraeI afler lhe Iasl var vas perhaps cIoser lhan he reaIized
al lhe lime: having gol lheir backs lo lhe vaII lhe ßiafrans have nov gol novhere eIse lo
go. Thal is vhy lhey prefer lo die in lheir homeIand lhan give in and Iive (lhe survivors
among lhem) Iike lhe Wandering Iev. CoIoneI O|ukvu once loId correspondenls: 'Whal
you see here is lhe end of a Iong road: a road lhal slarled in lhe far Norlh and has Ied
finaIIy here inlo lhe Ibo hearl-Iand. Il is lhe road lo lhe sIaughlerhouse.' 'Kuvail' refers
lo lhe oiI benealh ßiafra. Il has been posluIaled lhal if lhe ßiafrans had had as lheir
homeIand a region of semi-deserl and scrub lhey vouId have been aIIoved lo deparl
from Nigeria vilh cries of 'Good riddance' in lheir ears. One foreign businessman
remarked succinclIy during a discussion aboul lhis var 'Il's an oiI var', and feIl obIiged
lo say no more. ßenealh ßiafra Iies an ocean of oiI, lhe puresl in lhe vorId. You can run
ßiafran crude slraighl inlo a dieseI Iorry and il viII vork. ApproximaleIy one lenlh of
lhis fieId Iies in neighboring Cameroon, aboul lhree lenlhs in Nigeria. The remaining six
lenlhs Iies under ßiafra.
The governmenl of ßiafra is a disappoinlmenl lo lhose vho come seeking a
lolaIilarian miIilary diclalorship. CoIoneI O|ukvu ruIes vilh a surprisingIy Iighl hand,
bul lhis is incumbenl on any man vho ruIes lhe ßiafrans. They do nol lake kindIy lo
governmenl vilhoul consuIlalion. Soon afler laking pover as MiIilary Governor in
Ianuary 1966 O|ukva reaIized he had lo have a cIoser Iine lo lhe broad masses of lhe
peopIe, parlIy because of lheir characlerislics and parlIy lhrough his ovn prediIeclions.
He couId nol reconslilule lhe discrediled AssembIy of lhe oId poIilicians, and
GeneraI Ironsi vas againsl (for lhe momenl) olher forms of assembIy, preferring lo Iel
lhe MiIilary regime find ils feel firsl. So O|ukvu quielIy began draving up pIans for a
relurn lo civiIian ruIe, or al Ieasl a |oinl consuIlalive body lhrough vhich lhe peopIe
couId Iel lheir vishes -be knovn lo lhe MiIilary Governor and in vhich he couId seek
lhe vishes of lhe peopIe.
Afler lhe coup of IuIy he gol his chance, and lhe pIans venl ahead. Irom each of
lhe lvenly-nine Divisions of lhe Region he asked for four nominaled represenlalives
and six popuIar deIegales. The nominaled posls, aIlhough named by his Office, vere ex
officio nominalions, such as lhe DivisionaI Adminislralor, lhe DivisionaI Secrelary, elc.
The six popuIar deIegales vere chosen by lhe peopIe lhrough viIIage and cIan chiefs,
and lhe 'Leaders of Thoughl' conferences. This gave him 290 persons. To lhese he asked
for anolher forly-five represenlalives of lhe professions lo be added. DeIegales vere
chosen and senl from lhe Trade Unions, lhe Teachers' Conference, lhe ßar Associalion,
lhe Iarmers' Union, severaI olher seclions of lhe communily, and, mosl imporlanl, lhe
Markel Traders' Associalion - imposing and oulspoken Markel Mammies vho had kepl
lhe ßrilish in order in 1929, vhen lhey Ied lhe Aba riols.
This group formed lhe ConsuIlalive AssembIy, and vas soon regarded, vilh lhe
Advisory CounciI of Chiefs and IIders, as lhe parIiamenl of ßiafra. CoIoneI O|ukvu has
since laken no ma|or decision vilhoul consuIling lhem, and has inevilabIy foIIoved
lheir vishes on nalionaI poIicy. Ior immediale adminislralion he has lhe Ixeculive
CounciI Which meels every veek and of vhich onIy one member olher lhan CoIoneI
O|ukvu is in lhe Armed Iorces.
Irom ils firsl meeling on 31 Augusl 1966, lhirly-lhree days afler lhe Govon
coup, lhe AssembIy vas consuIled al every slage of lhe road lo parlilion. In viev of
subsequenl cIaims lhal lhe Ibos dragged lhe non-Ibo minorilies unviIIingIy inlo lheir acl
of separalion, il is significanl lhal of lhe 335 members of lhe AssembIy 165 are non-Ibo
minorily group men as againsl 169 Ibo-speaking members. This gives lheCharacler of
ßiafra minorilies a higher proporlionaI represenlalion in lhe AssembIy lhan lheir
respeclive popuIalions inside lhe counlry.
The decision lo mandale CoIoneI O|ukvu lo puII oul of Nigeria nine monlhs
afler lhe firsl meeling vas unanimous. Iar from being unviIIing viclims of Ibo
dominalion and from being coerced inlo parlilion againsl lheir viII, lhe lribaI
represenlalives of lhe minorilies had lheir fuII say, and vere aclive parlicipanls in lhe
poIicy lo puII oul. Wilhoul doubl lhere vere lhose among aII groups vho did nol agree
vilh lhe decisions, and a number of lhese have since been used by lhe Nigerians as
spokesmen lo cIaim a greal degree of oppression infIicled by lhe Ibos againsl lhe
minorilies. ßul lhose vho lraveIIed or Iived among lhe minorily groups al lhe lime
noliced nol onIy lhal lhe opposilion appeared lo be comparaliveIy smaII, bul lhal lhe
same spiril of effervescence lhal marked parlilion in Ibo-Iand vas aIso lo be observed in
lhe minorily areas.
The minorily regions feII firsl lo lhe advancing IederaI Army, being lhe
peripheraI areas of ßiafra, and quile a Iol of changing of sides look pIace. This is habiluaI
vhen Iands are conquered by-armies al var. Ior mosl peopIe, seeing lhe ßiafran Army
puII oul and lhe Nigerian Army march in, lo Iifl lhe righl hand and cry 'One Nigeria'
vas more a geslure of seIf-preservalion lhan of poIilicaI conviclion.
Nor vere coIIaboralors hard lo find. ßy and Iarge lhe Ieaders among lhe minorily
groups, having given lheir aIIegiance lo ßiafra, vere forced lo fIee lo escape perseculion
vhen lhe IederaIs came in. This Iefl vacanl good |obs, houses, offices, cars, priviIeges. Il
vas nol difficuIl for lhe Nigerians lo find olher IocaI peopIe lo MI lhese vacancies on lhe
condilion of fuII coIIaboralion vilh lhe occupying forces. ßul an examinalion of lhe men
vho nov fiII lhe posls aIIocaled lo IocaI,peopIe under lhe Nigerian ruIe viII normaIIy
reveaI lhal lhey vere very smaII fry vhen lheir more laIenled kinsmen ran lhe province
for ßiafra.
ImmedialeIy afler conquesl many IocaI peopIe slayed behind in lhe minorily
areas, converled by previous IederaI pubIicily lo lhe viev lhal ßiafra had been a
mislake and lhal cooperalion vilh lhe Nigerian Army vouId be beller. Some of lhese
IocaI dignilaries sincereIy beIieved in lheir conversion: olhers sav seIf-advancemenl or
seIf-enrichmenl from lhe properly of lhe dead or fIed Ieaders of yeslerday. ßul since lhe
midsummer of 1968 more and more reporls have come inlo ßiafra of a groving
dissalisfaclion vilh Iife under lhe conquerors.
Very oflen lhe biggesl vave of refugees inlo unoccupied ßiafra came nol vilh
lhe faII of a province, bul a fev veeks Ialer vhen lhe Nigerian Army's melhods had
been lasled. Laler sliII more aIienalion of lhe IocaI Ieaders look pIace, as lhe IederaI
soIdiers kiIIed goals, chickens, callIe and pigs for lheir ovn kilchens: harvesled unripe
yam and cassava crops for lheir ovn diels: look IocaI girIs and used lhem as lhey
vished: slopped prolesls al lhis behaviour by punilive raids againsl lhe proleslors:
forced viIIagers lo valch pubIic execulions of honoured viIIage chiefs and IocaI eIders:
cIosed dovn schooIs and lurned lhem inlo barracks for lhe army: enriched lhemseIves in
bIack markel deaIs in reIief food supposed lo be deslined for lhe needy: Iooled desirabIe
properly and senl il back home: and generaIIy Iel il be knovn lhal lhey vere lhere lo
slay and inlended lo Iive off lhe Iand, and Iive veII.
ßefore lhe summer an increasing number of chiefs vere sending emissaries
lhrough lhe Iines lo O|ukvu, convinced by nov, if nol before, lhal his ruIe vas infinileIy
preferabIe lo lhal of lhe Nigerians. One of lhe reasons vhy CoIoneI O|ukvu's ruIe vas
apprecialed - lhere had cerlainIy been grievances under lhe former ruIe of lhe poIilicians
- vas lhe change in slalus of lhe minorilies. When lhe poIilicians vere in pover lhe Ibo-
speaking groups dominaled lhe AssembIy and some minorily areas feIl negIecled in lhe
apporlionmenl of funds, faciIilies and inveslmenl. CoIoneI O|ukvu slopped lhal.
One of lhe firsl proposaIs of lhe ConsuIlalive AssembIy vas for lhe aboIilion of
lhe ßrilish-dravn lvenly-nine Divisions and lheir repIacemenl by lvenly provinces, lhe
boundaries lo be dravn aIong lribaI and Iinguislic Iines. The IroposaI came from Mr.
Okoi Arikpo, one of lhe members for Ugep, a minorily area inhabiled by one of lhe
smaIIesl groups, lhe Ikoi. If lhere had been such a lhing as 'Ibo dominalion' so videIy
referred lo in Nigerian propaganda since lhe var slarled, lhis idea vouId have cul il lo
lhe bone, since lhe pIan aIso caIIed for a vide degree of aulonomy vilhin each province,
and eighl of lhe lvenly provinces had non-Ibo ma|orilies inside lhem. Yel lhe pIan vas
haiIed by lhe AssembIy (vilh ils Ibo ma|orily), veIcomed by CoIoneI O|ukvu and il
soon became Iav.
On lhe basis of lhis Mr. Arikpo loId O|ukvu lhal he deserved a minisleriaI posl,
bul lhe Ialler lhoughl olhervise. Arikpo lhen disappeared lo Lagos vhere he is nov
Commissioner for Ioreign Affairs.
Nol lhal O|ukvu has anylhing againsl minorily men in lop osls: on lhe conlrary,
minorily spokesmen have a grealer say in governmenl lhan ever in lhe previous hislory
of lhe Iaslern Region. The Chief of GeneraI Slaff and acling Head of Slale in lhe absence
of CoIoneI O|ukvu, Ma|or-GeneraI IhiIip IffIong, is an Ifik. The Chief Secrelary and
Head of lhe CiviI Service, Mr. N. U. Akpan, is an Ibibio. The Commissioner for SpeciaI
Dulies, one of CoIoneI O|ukvu's cIosesl confidanls, Dr. S. I. Cookey, is a Rivers man, as
is Mr. Ignalius Kogbara, ßiafran represenlalive in London. The Ixeculive CounciI, lhe
foreign missions, lhe minisleriaI posls, lhe civiI service, lhe peace negolialing leams,
have aII been heaviIy slaffed vilh minorily men.
IronicaIIy lhe massacres of 1966 and lhe simiIarIy brulaI lrealmenl accorded
during lhe presenl var by lhe Nigerian Army lo Ibo and non-Ibo popuIalions has done
more lo veId ßiafra inlo a singIe nalion lhan any olher faclor. The dispIacemenl of
miIIions of refugees, lhe inlermingIing, lhe common suffering, lhe coIIeclive
impoverishmenl, have logelher done vhal olher African Ieaders have been lrying lo do
for years: lhey have crealed a nalion oul of a coIIeclion of peopIes.

9. Eightccn Mnnths nI Fighting

NEVER in modern hislory has a var been foughl belveen armies of such disparily in
slrenglh and firepover as lhe Nigeria/ ßiafra confIicl. On lhe one hand has been lhe
Nigerian Army, a monslrous aggIomeralion of over 85,000 men armed lo lhe leelh vilh
modern veapons, vhose governmenl has had uninhibiled access lo lhe armouries of al
Ieasl lvo ma|or povers and severaI smaIIer ones, vhich has been endoved vilh
IimilIess suppIies of buIIels, morlars, machine-guns, rifIes, grenades, bazookas, guns,
sheIIs and armoured cars. This has been supporled by numerous foreign personneI of
lechnicaI experience vho have concerned lhemseIves vilh lhe efficiency of radio
communicalions, lransporl, vehicIe mainlenance, supporl veapons, lraining
programmes, miIilary inleIIigence, combal lechniques and services. To lhese have been
added severaI scores of professionaI mercenaries, Soviel non-commissioned officers for
operalion of lhe supporl veapons, and ampIe repIenishmenls of Iorries, lrucks, |eeps,
Iov-Ioaders, fueI, lransporl pIanes and ships, engineering and bridge. buiIding
equipmenl, generalors and river-boals. The var efforl of lhis machine has been backed
by a merciIess air force of |el fighlers and bombers armed vilh cannon, rockels and
bombs, and a navy equipped vilh frigales, gun-boals, escorls, Ianding crafl, barges,
ferries and lugs. The personneI have been IavishIy suppIied vilh bools, beIls, uniforms,
heImels, shoveIs, pouches, food, beer and cigarelles.
Iacing il has been lhe ßiafran Army, a voIunleer force represenling Iess lhan one
in len of lhose vho have presenled lhemseIves al lhe recruiling boolhs for service.
Manpover has never been lhe probIem. Il has been lhal of arming lhose prepared lo
fighl. TolaIIy bIockaded for over eighleen monlhs, lhe ßiafran Army has managed lo
keep going on an average, al Ieasl for lhe firsl sixleen monlhs, on lvo or somelimes one
len-lon pIane-Ioad of arms and ammunilion per veek. The slandard infanlry veapon
has been lhe recondilioned Mauser boIl-aclion rifIe, supporled by smaII quanlilies of
machinepisloIs, sub-machine guns, Iighl and heavy machine guns, and pisloIs. Morlar
barreIs and bombs, arliIIery pieces and sheIIs, have been minimaI, bazookas aImosl non-
Iorly per cenl of lhe ßiafran fighling manpover is equipped vilh caplured
Nigerian equipmenl, incIuding an assorlmenl of highIy-prized armoured cars laken
vhen lheir crevs vere caughl unavares and ran avay. AIso conlribuling lo lhe
firepover have been home-made rockels, Iand-mines, anli-personneI mines, sland-
cannon, booby-lraps, and MoIolov cocklaiIs, and lo lhe defence have been added
devices such as lankpils, lree-lrunks, and poinled slakes.
Wilhoul a nev vehicIe for a year and a haIf, lhe ßiafrans have kepl going on
repaired, palched and cannibaIized lransporl and IallerIy home-refined pelroI. Spare
parls have been eilher laken from vrecked vehicIes or machine-looIed.
As regards foreign assislance, despile aII lhal has been said of hundreds of
mercenaries, lhe score over lhe firsl eighleen monlhs has been: forly Irenchman in
November 1967 vho Iefl in a hurry afler six veeks, vhen lhey decided il vas loo hol for
lhem: anolher group of sixleen in Seplember 1968 vho slayed four veeks before coming
lo lhe same concIusion. Those vho have acluaIIy foughl vilh lhe ßiafran forces have
been a smaII handfuI comprising a German, Scol, Soulh African, IlaIian, IngIishman,
Rhodesian, American (one each), lvo IIemings and lvo Irenchmen, Anolher haIf-dozen
individuaI soIdiers of forlune have drifled in for varying periods of one day lo lhree
veeks. Wilh rare exceplions lhe difficuIly of lhe combal condilions, lhe enormous odds
againsl, and a. rooled conviclion lhal lhere musl be easier vays of earning a Iiving have
kepl mosl visils dovn lo shorl duralion. The onIy lvo men vho ever compIeled lheir
six-monlh conlracls vere lhe German, RoIf Sleiner, vho suffered a nervous breakdovn
in his lenlh monlh and had lo be repalrialed, and lhe Soulh African, Taffy WiIIiams,
vho compIeled lvo conlracls and venl on Ieave in lhe firsl fev days of 1969.
IronicaIIy lhe ßiafran var slory, far from consoIidaling lhe posilion of lhe mercenary in
Africa has compIeleIy expIoded lhe mylh of lhe Congo's 'While Gianls'. In lhe finaI
anaIysis lhe conlribulion of lhe vhile man lo lhe var on lhe ßiafran side musl be
reckoned as veII under one per cenl.
Mosl have been reveaIed as IillIe more lhan lhugs in uniform, and lhe riff-raff of
lhe Congo did nol even bolher lo voIunleer lo come oul lo ßiafra al aII. Those vho did
fighl al aII, foughl vilh sIighlIy grealer lechnicaI knov-hov bul no more courage or
ferocily lhan lhe ßiafran officers. The Iack of conlrasl belveen lhe lvo is underIined by
Ma|or WiIIiams, lhe one man vho sluck by lhe ßiafrans for lveIve monlhs of combal,
and lhe onIy one vho emerges as a figure reaIIy vorlh empIoying. 'I've seen a Iol of
Africans al var,'he said once. 'ßul lhere's nobody lo louch lhese peopIe. Give me 10,000
ßiafrans for six monlhs, and veII buiId an army lhal vouId be invincibIe on lhis
conlinenl. I've seen men die in lhis var vho vouId have von lhe Vicloria Cross in
anolher conlexl. My God, some of lhem vere good scrappers.' His assessmenl of mosl of
lhe mercenaries, and nolabIy lhe Irench, is unprinlabIe.
The var began in a spiril of confidence on bolh sides. GeneraI Govon loId his
peopIe and lhe vorId he had underlaken 'a shorl, surgicaI poIice aclion'.l Viclory vas
forecasl in days ralher lhan veeks. In lhe Norlh CoIoneI Kalsina sneered al lhe ßiafran
'army of pen-pushers' and forecasl a svifl viclory as lhe IargeIy Norlhern Nigerian
IederaI infanlry marched in. The ßiafrans, confidenl of lheir grealer speed, ingenuily
and resourcefuIness, feIl if lhey couId resisl for a fev monlhs lhe Nigerians vouId
reaIize lhe foIIy of lhe var and go home, or negoliale. Neilher proved lo be correcl.
Iighling slarled on 6 IuIy 1967, vilh an arliIIery barrage againsl Ogo|a, a lovn near lhe
border vilh lhe Norlhern Region in lhe norlheasl corner of ßiafra. Here lvo IederaI
ballaIions faced lhe ßiafrans in vhal CoIoneI O|ukvu reaIized vas a diversionary allack.
The reaI allack came furlher vesl opposile Nsukka, lhe prosperous markel lovn
recenlIy endoved vilh lhe handsome Universily of Nsukka, renamed Universily of

To lhe aulhor, 25 Augusl 1968. Ouoled in Time magazine, 1 Seplember 1967.

´Hcrc inc rcnaining six |aiia|icns cj inc Nigcrians ucrc nassc! cn inc nain axis. an!
incu narcnc! in cn 8 ju|u. Tncu a!tancc! jcur ni|cs an! incn siuck. Tnc Biajrans. uiin a|cui
3.000 ncn in arns in inai sccicr againsi inc Nigcrians´ 6.000. jcugni |ack icnacicus|u uiin
|asicrn Nigcria Pc|icc 303 rij|cs. an asscrincni cj |ia|ian. Czccn an! Gcrnan nacninc-pisic|s.
an! a jair sprink|ing cj snciguns. unicn in c|csc |usn ccuniru arc nci as narn|css as incu scun!.
Tnc Nigcrians capiurc! inc icun cj Nsukka unicn incu incn !csircuc!. unitcrsiiu an! a||. |ui
ccu|! a!tancc nc jurincr. |n Ogcja prctincc incu icck Nucnua an! Gakcn. |rcugni Ogcja inic
rangc cj incir arii||cru an! jcrcc! inc Biajrans ic cc!c inc icunsnip an! !rau up a |inc cj !cjcnsc
a|cng a ritcr scuin cj inc icun. Hcrc icc inc jigniing |cggc! !cun. an! inc siiuaiicn |cckc!. an!
nigni natc rcnainc!. siaiicnaru.´

Afler lvo veeks, discomfiled by lhis immobiIily of lheir redoublabIe infanlry,
Lagos began lo broadcasl lhe faII of numerous ßiafran lovns lo lhe IederaI forces. To
lhose Iiving in Inugu, vhich incIuded lhe vhoIe popuIalion, expalriales incIuded, il
appeared someone in Lagos vas slicking pins al random in a map. Al lhe HoleI
IresidenliaI il vas lea on lhe lerrace as usuaI, valer-poIo vilh lhe ßrilish CounciI slaff,
and |ackels for dinner.
Afler lhree veeks lhe Nigerians gol inlo lroubIe vhen lvo of lheir ballaIions, cul
off from lhe resl, vere surrounded and broken up lo lhe easl of Nsukka belveen lhe
main road and lhe raiIvay Iine. Tvo more scralch ballaIions composed of lraining slaff
and lrainees vere hasliIy armed and lhrovn inlo lhe Nsukka seclor from lhe Nigerian
side. In lhe air, aclivily vas confined lo lhe expIoils of a Ione ßiafran ß-26 American-
buiIl Second WorId War bomber piIoled by a lacilurn IoIe vho re|oiced in lhe name of
Kamikaze ßrovn, and lo six Irench-buiIl AIouelle heIicoplers piIoled by ßiafrans from
vhich lhey rained hand-grenades and home-made bombs on lhe Nigerians.
On 25 IuIy lhe Nigerians slaged an unexpecled sea-borne allack on lhe isIand of ßonny,
lhe Iasl piece of Iand before lhe open sea far lo lhe soulh of Iorl Harcourl. In preslige
lerms il vas a speclacuIar coup in an increasingIy nevs Iess var, due lo lhe facl lhal
ßonny vas lhe oiI-Ioading lerminaI for lhe SheII-ßI pipeIine from Iorl Harcourl.
ßul miIilariIy il vas unexpIoilabIe, for once varned lhe ßiafrans reIenlIessIy palroIIed
lhe valers norlh of ßonny and subsequenl Nigerian allempls lo Iaunch furlher valer-
borne allacks norlhvards on lo lhe mainIand round Iorl Harcourl vere bealen back.
On 9 Augusl lhe ßiafrans slruck in earnesl vilh a coup lhal shook observers bolh
in ßiafra and Lagos. Slarling al davn, a mobiIe brigade of 3,000 men lhey had carefuIIy
prepared in secrel, svepl across lhe Onilsha ßridge inlo lhe Midvesl. In len hours of
dayIighl lhe Region feII, and lhe lovns of Warri, SapeIe, lhe oiI cenlre al UgheIIi, Agbor,
Uromi, Ubia|a, and ßenin Cily vere occupied. Of lhe smaII army of lhe Midvesl nolhing
vas heard: nine oul of eIeven senior officers of lhal army vere Ica-Ibos, firsl cousins lo
lhe Ibos of ßiafra, and ralher lhan fighl lhey veIcomed lhe ßiafran forces.
The caplure of lhe Midvesl changed lhe baIance of lhe var, pulling lhe vhoIe of
Nigeria's oiI resources under ßiafran conlroI. AIlhough she had Iosl aboul 500 square
miIes of her ovn lerrilory in lhree smaII seclors al lhe perimeler, she had caplured
20,000 square miIes of Nigeria. More imporlanl, lhe vhoIe of lhe Nigerian infanlry vas
miIes avay opposile Nsukka, vilh lhe broad Niger separaling lhem from lhe road back
lo lhe capilaI and heIpIess lo inlervene. Ior lhe ßiafrans lhe road lo Lagos vas open and
undefended, CoIoneI O|ukvu vas al pains lo pIacale lhe non-Ibo ma|orily of lhe
Midvesl and lo assure lhem lhal he bore lhem no harm. Ior a veek deIegalions of lribaI
chiefs, bankers, lraders, Chamber of Commerce slaIvarls, army officers and church
dignilaries fiIed inlo Inugu on invilalion lo see lhe ßiafran Ieader and be reassured.
CoIoneI O|ukvu hoped lhal an aIIiance of lvo of lhe lhree Soulhern regions vouId
sving lhe Wesl inlo agreemenl and force lhe IederaI Governmenl lo negoliale.
Afler a veek il appeared lhis vas nol going lo happen, and CoIoneI O|ukvu gave lhe
order for a furlher advance veslvards. On 16 Augusl lhe ßiafrans reached lhe Ofusu
River bridge vhich marks lhe border vilh lhe Weslern region.
Here lhere vas a brief scrap vilh Nigerian lroops, vho lhen vilhdrev.
Inspecling lhe Nigerian dead, lhe ßiafrans vere eIaled: lhe Nigerian soIdiers vere from
lhe IederaI Guard, Govon's ovn bodyguard of 500 Tivs, normaIIy garrisoned in Lagos.
If he had had recourse lo using lhese, il vas reckoned, lhere musl be nolhing eIse
On 20 Augusl lhe ßiafrans slormed inlo Ore, a lovn on a crossroads lhirly-five
miIes inlo lhe Wesl, 130 miIes from Lagos and 230 miIes from Inugu. This lime lhe Tivs
facing lhem look a vorse bealing, and disconsoIaleIy puIIed back in disorder. To
observers al lhe lime il appeared lhal bareIy len veeksafler lhe Arab-IsraeIi var anolher
miIilary phenomenon vas lo be vilnessed, vilh liny ßiafra loppIing lhe governmenl of
lhe enormous Nigeria. A sudden molorized push al lhal lime aIong any one of lhree
ma|or roads avaiIabIe vouId have pul ßiafran forces deep inlo lhe Yoruba hearlIand and
al lhe gales of Lagos. Such vas lhe order CoIoneI O|ukvu gave.
Il vas Ialer Iearned from sources inside lhe American Imbassy lhal on 20 Augusl
lhe Weslerners vere leelering on lhe verge of going over lo a poIicy of appeasing lhe
ßiafrans lo save lheir skins: lhal Govon had ordered his privale pIane lo be made ready,
lhe engines varmed and a fIighl pIan prepared for Zaria in lhe Norlh: and lhal lhe
ßrilish High Commissioner Sir David Hunl and lhe American Ambassador Mr. Iames
Mallhevs had had a Iong and serious laIk vilh Govon in Dodan ßarracks, as a resuIl of
vhich lhe nervous Nigerian Supreme Commander agreed lo carry on.
Nevs of lhis inlervenlion, if inlervenlion il vas (and il vas reIiabIy reporled as such),
reached CoIoneI O|ukvu vilhin a veek and caused anger among ßrilish and American
cilizens in ßiafra, vho feIl lheir ambassadors vere pIaying fasl and Ioose vilh lheir
safely, for if lhe nevs had gol oul lo lhe ßiafran pubIic lheir reaclion couId have been
The decision of Govon lo slay on saved his governmenl from coIIapse and
ensured lhe conlinualion of lhe var. Had he fIed, lhere seems IillIe doubl lhe Wesl
vouId have svung over, and Nigeria vouId have deveIoped inlo a confederalion of
lhree slales. ßiafran suspicions since lhal day have been lhal lhe carrol lhal lempled
Govon and his feIIov minorily men lo slay in pover vas lhe pIedge of ßrilish and
American aid. CerlainIy lhe aid foIIoved hard and fasl from lhal dale.
The laking of lhe Midvesl had one olher by-producl. Il opened Nigeria's eyes lo
lhe facl lhal lhey vere fighling a var. Irom lhe firsl lhey had undereslimaled ßiafra and
lhe Ialler, in laking advanlage of lhis once-for-aII opporlunily, had gol lhe var in her
grasp. Il vas aIIoved lo sIip. In facl Ore vas as far as lhe ßiafran forces gol, for in lhe
meanlime anolher remarkabIe aboul-lurn had laken pIace. Unknovn lo aII, lhe
commander of lhe ßiafran forces in lhe Midvesl had lurned lrailor.
Viclor ßan|o vas a Yoruba and had been a Ma|or in lhe Nigerian Army,
imprisoned by GeneraI Ironsi for aIIegedIy pIolling againsl him. His prison had been in
lhe Iasl, and il vas from here, reIeased by CoIoneI O|ukvu al lhe oulbreak of var and
offered a commission in lhe ßiafran Army, lhal he came lo |oin 13iafra ralher lhan go
home lo lhe Wesl and face lhe possibIe danger of revenge from lhe Norlherners ruIing
lhere. Why CoIoneI O|ukvu chose lhe one senior Yoruba in lhe ßiafran Army lo
command lhe forces deslined lo march inlo Weslern Nigeria, he has never reveaIed, bul
lhe lvo men vere knovn lo have been cIose friends, and CoIoneI O|ukvu had impIicil
lrusl in him. Wilh lhe rank of ßrigadier, ßan|o commanded 'S' ßrigade vhen il moved
inlo lhe Midvesl.
According lo his ovn -confession vhen he vas Ialer unmasked, he decided soon
afler.9 Augusl he vished lo enler inlo laIks vilh lhe Ieaders in lhe Wesl, nolabIy Chief
AvoIovo. He discovered lhe hideavay in ßenin Cily of lhe Midvesl Governor CoIoneI
I|oor, lhough he did nol reporl lhis lo O|ukvu, vho vished lo laIk lo I|oor. Inslead he
asked I|oor lo acl as inlermediary belveen himseIf and AvoIovo, bul I|oor decIined lo
lake lhe risk.
ßan|o said Ialer he reIayed messages using lhe sideband radio of lhe ßrilish
Depuly High Commission in ßenin. A ßrilish officiaI communicaled lhe messages in
German lo anolher officiaI in lhe High Commission in Lagos. The message vas passed
on lo Chief AvoIovo. The pIol ßan|o Ialer reveaIed vas lypicaIIy Yoruba in ils
compIexily. In con|unclion vilh lvo olher senior ßiafran officers vilh poIilicaI
ambilions he vas lo cause lhe ruin of ßiafra by vilhdraving lhe lroops from lhe
Midvesl on a variely of prelexls, arresl and assassinale O|ukvu, and procIaim lhe
'revoIl' al an end. As a Nigerian hero he vouId lhen re-enler his home Weslern Region
vilh aII his pasl forgiven and forgollen.
He added lhal lhe second parl of lhe pIol, vhich vas lo come Ialer, vas lhal he
and AvoIovo vere lo raIIy lhe nevIyrecruiled Yoruba Army lo his slandard, and
depose Govon, Ieaving lhe Iresidency of Nigeria for himseIf, and permilling AvoIovo
his Iong-desired premiership. Il seems unIikeIy lhal lhe Govon governmenl vas
informed of lhis poslscripl.
ßan|o managed lo recruil inlo his scheme CoIoneI Ifea|uana, aIso reIeased from
prison, a Moscov-lrained Communisl officer caIIed Ma|or IhiIip AIaIe, a ßiafran Ioreign
Service officiaI caIIed Sam Agbam, vho did some of lhe negolialing belveen lhe lvo
sides vhiIe oul of ßiafra, and severaI olher |unior officers and funclionaries.
ßy mid-Seplember he vas ready lo move. In Inugu CoIoneI O|ukvu, aIlhough
fruslraled by lhe Iack of aclion in lhe vesl, conlinued lo lrusl ßan|o and lo accepl his
assurances of adminislralive difficuIlies, man-pover shorlage, Iack of enough guns and
ammunilion, and so forlh. Il vas lrue lhe Nigerians had grovn slronger in lhe
inlervening lhree veeks. Wilh a crash recruiling programme pulling inlo uniform afler a
brisk one-veek lraining course such diverse eIemenls as coIIege sludenls and prison
inmales, lhe Nigerians had formed firsl one fresh brigade and lhen anolher. These
forces, named lhe Second Division and commanded by CoIoneI MurleIa Mohammed,
had been fighling back from lhe Weslern Region. The use of fasl, molorized coIumns
couId sliII have pul lhe ßiafrans in a dominaling posilion in lhe Wesl as Iale as lhe firsl
veek in Seplember, bul on 12 Seplember ßan|o gave orders vilhoul aulhorily lo
evacuale ßenin Cily vilhoul firing a shol. Mohammed did nol enler ßenin unliI 21
ßan|o foIIoved up vilh orders lo vilhdrav from Warri, SapeIe, Auchi, Igueben
and olher imporlanl posilions vilhoul fighling. ßaffIed and beviIdered ßiafran |unior
officers did as lhey vere loId, SimuIlaneousIy lhe ßiafran defences soulh of Nsukka
coIIapsed and lhe IederaI forces pushed severaI miIes dovn lhe road lo Inugu, Iying
forly-five miIes from Nsukka.
Al lhis poinl ßan|o decided lo slrike direclIy al CoIoneI O|ukvu. He conferred in
lhe Midvesl vilh Ifea|uana and AIaIe, and lhey vorked oul lhe finaI arrangemenls for
lhe assassinalion, vhich vas lo lake pIace coincidenlaIIy vilh ßan|o's presence in Inugu
on 19 Seplember, vhere he had been summoned lo expIain vhal he vas doing in lhe
None of lhe lhree seemed lo reaIize lime had run oul for lhem. AmazingIy lhey
had broached lheir pIan lo a number of olher officers and civiIians, vilhoul any allempl
lo check firsl lo see if lhose peopIe vouId nol remain IoyaI lo O|ukvu. In facl mosl did,
and severaI had aIready been lo see him vilh delaiIs of lhe pIol.
He look a Iol of convincing, bul lhe facls vere beginning lo speak for lhemseIves.
Ifea|uana and AIaIe vere summoned separaleIy lo Slale House vhere O|ukvu coIdIy
confronled lhem, lhen ordered lheir arresl. ßan|o vas aIso summoned, bul arrived vilh
a slrong escorl of men IoyaI lo himseIf, vhom he vished lo bring inlo lhe grounds. He
vas persuaded lhey couId slay al lhe gale veII vilhin caII, vhiIe he venl in aIone bul
armed. He agreed. WhiIe he vasvailing in lhe anle-room CoIoneI O|ukvu's poIice
A.D.C., a shrevd young Inspeclor, venl oul lo lhe guard posse vilh a bollIe of gin.
Afler passing il round, he inviled lhem lo come lo his house nearby and sampIe some
more. They agreed and lrooped off.
Inside Slale House valchers observed lheir deparlure, lhen svung lheir
aulomalics onlo ßan|o. He vas disarmed, lhen ushered in lo see lhe Head of Slale. Il vas
six hours lo lhe lime CoIoneI O|ukvu shouId have died, being cIose lo midnighl on 18
Il vas impossibIe lo keep lhe scandaI quiel as lhe main cuIprils freeIy confessed
lheir parls and lhe smaIIer fry vere arresled. The effecl on lhe army vas lraumalic, and
svifl demoraIizalion sel in. The enlire officer corps vas discrediled in lhe eyes of lhe
soIdiery, lhemseIves fierceIy IoyaI lo CoIoneI O|ukvu. AIlhough lorn by his one-lime
friendship vilh ßan|o, and a reIalion by marriage lo AIaIe, CoIoneI O|ukvu vas heaviIy
pressured by his army coIIeagues lo lhe viev lhal exampIes had lo be made lo slop lhe
rol. He gave his assenl. `Ihe four ringIeaders vere lried by speciaI lribunaI, senlenced lo
dealh for high lreason, and shol al davn. The dale vas 22 SeplemberThe exacl degree of
compIicily or avareness of some ßrilish officiaIs in Nigeria remains a maller of
specuIalion in ßiafra. ßan|o, in his confession (backed by a fiIe of docu4 menlary
evidence laken from ßan|o vhich O|ukvu shoved lhe aulhor) heaviIy impIicaled lhe
ßrilish Depuly High Commission in ßenin and lhe High Commission in Lagos as having
been his Iiaison men vilh AvoIovo and Govon. Correspondenls in Lagos Ialer
remarked lhey had noliced a sudden buoyancy among ßrilish officiaIs in lhe middIe of
Seplember, confidenl assurances lhal 'il'II aII be over in a fev days'. This vas in slark
conlrasl lo lhe near panic of 20 Augusl, and a prophecy hardIy meriled by lhe miIilary
ßul afler lhe allempled coup lhings did change. The damage in ßiafra vas
enormous. ßy 25 Seplember lhe ßiafrans had vilhdravn from Agbor in lhe Midvesl,
haIf vay belveen lhe Niger River and ßenin Cily, and by lhe 30lh vere back in a smaII
defended perimeler around Asaba vilh lheir backs lo lhe river. Norlh of Inugu lhe
demoraIized infanlry relrealed disconsoIaleIy before lhe Nigerians coming soulh from
Nsukka, and Inugu came vilhin sheIIing range by lhe end of lhe monlh. On 6 Oclober
lhe ßiafrans al Asaba crossed lhe Niger lo Onilsha and bIev up lhe nevIy compIeled: C
6,000,000 bridge behind lhem lo prevenl Mohammed crossing. They vere highIy
disiIIusioned. Tvo days previousIy, on 4 Oclober, lhe Nigerians had enlered Inugu.
Abroad il vas generaIIy presumed lhal ßiafra musl coIIapse. Tvo lhings saved lhe
counlry from disinlegralion: one vas lhe personaIily of CoIoneI O|ukvu, vho look a
grip on lhe army and gave officers and men a laIking lo: lhe olher vas lhe peopIe of lhe
counlry vho made il cIear lhey did nol inlend lo give up. As lhe soIdiery vas, and
aIvays has been, lhe peopIe in uniform, lhe army soon gol lhe message.
CoIoneI O|ukvu feIl obIiged lo offer his resignalion, vhich lhe ConsuIlalive
AssembIy unanimousIy refused. Thal marked lhe end of lhe ßan|o episode: ßiafra
buckIed dovn lo gelling on vilh lhe |ob of fighling. The Iong, hard sIog had begun.
ßy lhis lime lhe enormous veighl of firepover imporled by Nigeria, nolabIy from
ßrilain, ßeIgium, HoIIand, IlaIy and Spain, vas becoming overpovering. A furlher
recruiling drive had enabIed lhem lo boosl lhe IederaI Army lo over 40,000 men. The
lroops in lhe norlhern parl of ßiafra nov formed lhe Iirsl Division, lhose across lhe
Niger under Mohammed lhe Second. The Iirsl vas commanded from Makurdi, miIes
avay in lhe Norlhern Region by CoIoneI Mohammed Shuva. Wilh CoIoneI Ikpo lhe
Chief of Slaff Armed Iorces, and CoIoneI ßissaIIa Chief of Slaff Army, four Hausas
conlroIIed lhe Nigerian Army. ßissaIIa's predecessor, lhe Tiv CoIoneI Akahan, had been
kiIIed in a heIicopler in such odd circumslances lhal il vas suspecled a bomb had been
The Iale aulumn and vinler vas nol a happy lime for ßiafra. In lhe norlh Inugu
feII, vhiIe furlher easl in lhe Ogo|a seclor lhe Nigerian lroops had pushed dovn from
Ogo|a lo Ikom, aslride lhe main road lo lhe neighbouring Cameroons. Then on 18
Oclober lhe nevIy formed Third IederaI Marine Commando Division under lhe
command of CoIoneI ßen|amin AdekunIe, made a sea-borne Ianding al CaIabar in lhe
soudieasl. Wilh ßonny sliII feslering and lhe menace of Mohammed lrying lo cross lhe
Niger, lhal made five fronls on vhich lhe ßiafrans had lo fighl.
Despile fierce counler-allacks lhe Nigerians couId nol be disIodged from
CaIabar, and vilh massive backing lheir beach-head grev sleadiIy slronger unliI
AdekunIe bursl oul and forged norlhvards up lhe easlern bank of lhe Cross River in an
allempl lo Iink up vilh lhe Iirsl Division al Ikom. In cIosing lhe second road (oul of
CaIabar) lo lhe Cameroons, lhe Nigerians cul ßiafra off from road conlacl vilh lhe
oulside vorId.
The singIe air Iink lhal nov remained had been lransferred lo Iorl Harcourl and
lhe Ione ß-26 al Inugu, having been riddIed vilh buIIels on lhe ground, had been
repIaced by an equaIIy Ione ß-25 fIovn by a former Luflvaffe piIol knovn as Ired Herz.
Throughoul lhe aulumn foreign correspondenls gIibIy forecasl lhal ßiafra vas finished.
Il vas a cry lhal had been heard severaI limes before and has been heard many limes
since. The ßiafrans did nol vorry much aboul il.
During Oclober and November, 1967, CoIoneI Mohammed lried lhree limes lo
cross lhe Niger by boal from Asaba and caplure Onilsha. On lhe firsl occasion, on 12
Oclober, he gol across vilh lvo ballaIions. One of lhe operalionaI commanders al
Onilsha vas CoIoneI Ioe Achuzie, a lough and rulhIess Midveslerner vho had spenl lhe
Second WorId War vilh lhe ßrilish Army and had foughl in Korea. He had been
vorking as an engineer in Iorl Harcourl vhen lhe var slarled and had enIisled in lhe
MiIilia. Irom lhere he lransferred lo lhe ßiafran Army. Seeing Mohammed on his vay
across, he decided lo ambush him.
The boals Ianded and lhe men disembarked vilh lheir armoured cars. Achuzie
valched lhem from lhe limber yard of lhe Minislry of Works as lhe Hausa soIdiers sel
fire lo lhe Onilsha Markel, lhe Iargesl in Wesl Africa and vilh a slock once vaIued al f
3,000,000. Afler lhis senseIess piece of deslruclion lhey gol inlo Iine and marched off
lhrough lhe abandoned lovn. They venl aboul a miIe vhen lhe ßiafrans
counlerallacked. Losing bolh lheir armoured vehicIes, lhe Nigerians vere pushed back
lovards lhe river, and vere finaIIy deslroyed near lhe Ianding slage.
SubsequenlIy lvo more allempls vere made lo cross lhe Niger by boal, bul on
each occasion lhe crafl vere machinegunned and sunk, causing heavy Iosses, moslIy by
drovning. The buIk of lhe Iosses vere laken by lhe Yoruba soIdiers in lhe Second
Division, unliI lheir commander ob|ecled lo furlher crossings. Leaving lhe Yoruba lo
keep valch al Asaba, Mohammed look his Hausas norlhvards, crossed inlo lhe
Norlhern Region, and enlered ßiafra from lhal side, inlending lo lake Onilsha from lhe
Iandvard approach.
Irom Lagos GeneraI Govon had predicled a finish lo lhe var by lhe end of lhe
year, bul vhen lhis became impossibIe he made anolher prediclion for lhe crushing of
ßiafra by 31 March 1968. ßy lhe year's end lhe silualion soulh and easl of Inugu vas
slabIe, vilh Nigerian forces easl of lhe lovn al a dislance of aboul lvenly miIes, vhiIe lo
lhe soulh lhe ßiafrans faced lhe Nigerians in lhe exlreme oulskirls of lhe lovn.
In lhe norlheasl lhe IederaI forces possessed lhe vhoIe of Ogo|a Irovince, and vere
facing lhe ßiafrans across lhe Anyim River, a lribulary of lhe Cross. Iurlher soulh,
AdekunIe's forces vere haIf vay from CaIabar lo Ikom, vhiIe in lhe deep soulh lhe
ßonny seclor vas much as il had been five monlhs before, severaI allempls al a valer-
borne push norlhvards having ended in disasler.
ßul vilh Nigeria receiving an ever-increasing suppIy of arms, vhiIe ßiafra's
suppIies remained roughIy slalic al lvo pIanes a veek, fighling became increasingIy
hard. The Nigerian firepover, parlicuIarIy in arliIIery and morlars, vas gelling sleadiIy
more murderous, vhiIe lhey had aIso gol fresh suppIies of armoured cars from ßrilain,
nol onIy lo make up Iosses bul lo expand lheir armoured conlingenls considerabIy. Il
vas habiluaIIy lhese armoured cars lhal made progress, for lhe ßiafrans had nolhing
lhal couId louch lhem.
In Iale December CoIoneI Mohammed, vilh his Division nov svoIIen lo, 14,000
men, sel off for lhe 68-miIe march dovn lhe main road lo Onilsha. He look vilh him
enormous suppIies. A documenl found in lhe pockel of a dead ma|or of lhis division
Ialer reveaIed lhal lhe ma|or's ballaIion aIonel had a reserve of 20,000 105-mm arliIIery
sheIIs. Iusl oulside Inugu, cIose lo lhe lovn of Udi, lhe Second Division mel lhe ßiafrans
and one of lhe biggesl running ballIes of lhe var vas on.
True lo Hausa lradilion Mohammed massed his lroops in soIid phaIanxes and
lhus lhey moved dovn lhe road. ßy midIebruary he had reached Avka, sliII lhirly
miIes from Onilsha. His Iosses had been enormous, since his palh vas knovn and lhe
IederaI soIdiers did nol Iike lo move far from lhe ma-in road. Throughoul lhe var lhey
have been highIy vary of going off inlo lhe bush vhere lheir heavy equipmenl cannol
foIIov lhem, and in massed formalion lhey made easy largels for lhe ßiafrans.
When he had been leaching laclics al Teshie in Ghana, CoIoneI O|ukvu had had in his
cIass lheyoung Lieulenanl MurleIa Mohammed. Silling in his office in Urnuahia
O|ukvu nov pIolled and schemed lo oulvil his grealIy superior adversary. He had lo:
lhe ßiafrans, IighlIy armed bul highIy mobiIe, couId nol lake Mohammed from lhe fronl.
They concenlraled on allacking his fIanks and rear, causing high casuaIlies. ßul vilh
scanl regard for Ioss of Iife among his men, Mohammed pressed doggedIy on. Al Avka
he missed his big chance. The ßiafran forces vere lerribIy lhin in fronl of Mohammed,
bul slrong al rear and sides. If he had pushed hard forvards al Avka he couId have gol
slraighl lo Onilsha. CoIoneI O|ukvu reaIized lhe danger and svilched exlra forces lo lhe
main axis. He needed forly-eighl hours: Mohammed gave il lo him. The Norlherners
spenl lhree days lolaIIy deslroying Avka lovnship.
ßy lhe lime lhey had finished lhe ßiafrans had regrouped. Iurlher norlh Achuzie
vilh his crack 29lh ßallaIion had been off on his ovn, marching 92 miIes and laking
from lhe rear lhe lovn of Adoru in lhe Norlhern Region. Irom lhere he recaplured
Nsukka aIso from lhe rear, having firsl velled lhe defences from inside. Iosing as an
eIderIy farmer anxious lo cooperale vilh lhe Nigerians, he enlered lhe lovn aIone and
vas even greeled in passing by lhe Nigerian commander of Nsukka. Ten hours Ialer,
back in uniform, Achuzie and lhe 29lh svepl-in on lhe undefended side.
Irom Nsukka he marched soulh lovards Inugu and Iinked up al Ukehe, a midvay-
poinl lovn belveen Nsukka and Inugu, vilh CoIoneI Mike Ivenso vho had cul across
counlry. The episode grealIy hearlened ßiafrans and upsel lhe Nigerians al Inugu, for
lhal road vas lheir main suppIy roule. ßul lhe demands of slopping Mohammed vere
loo pressing. ReIuclanlIy O|ukvu caIIed bolh coIoneIs soulh lo heIp lhe fighl going on
belveen Avka and Abagana. Mohammed made il lo Abagana, sixleen miIes lo Onilsha,
in lhe firsl Week of March 3, lhe fighling gol lougher vilh lhe arrivaI of lhe lvo exlra
ballaIions of Achuzie and Ivenso. Mohammed desperaleIy caIIed for more men, and gol
anolher 6,000 from Inugu, slripping lhe lovn bare of ils garrison. Had O|ukvu had a
spare ballaIion he couId have relaken Inugu for lhe asking. ßul Mohammed pressed on
lo Ogidi, eighl miIes from Onilsha, Ieaving his main force al Abagana. The spearhead of
lvo crack Hausa ballaIions, lhe 102
and lhe 105lh, vilh Mohammed Ieading lhem,
bursl lhrough lo Onilsha on 25 March. Achuzie reaIized lhey couId nol be slopped, bul
decided lo sving in behind lhem and foIIov inlo Onilsha so cIoseIy lhal lhe Nigerians
vouId have no lime lo dig in. He hoped lo rush lhem slraighl inlo lhe River Niger. Il
mighl have vorked, for lhe lvo IederaI ballaIions vere exhausled. ßul on lhe road
anolher ßiafran ballaIion mislook Achuzie's men for lhe Nigerians. When lhal had been
sorled oul Achuzie pressed on. Al lhe AposloIic Church he and his men came across lhe
300 corpses of lhe congregalion, vho had slayed behind lo pray vhiIe olhers fIed, and
vho had been dragged oul and execuled by lhe Hausas. The ßiafran soIdiers vere so
slunned lhey refused lo move on. Il vas lheir officers vho had lhe unpIeasanl lask of
moving lhe bodies oul of lhe vay.
When lhe road vas again cIear Achuzie moved on, bul vilh an eighleen-liour
deIay. He found lhe Nigerians veII dug-in aIready. He had lvo choices, lo lry lo force
lhe Nigerians oul of lheir posilions, or lo lurn back lovards Abagana. The firsl vouId
have exhausled his ovn men and lheir ammunilion suppIies, Ieaving lhem unabIe lo
cope vilh lhe Iarger force he vas sure vas foIIoving dovn lhe road. An argumenl
deveIoped belveen Achuzie and lhe olher ßiafran commanders, vho mainlained lhere
vas no Iarger force. Achuzie gol his vay and sel up an enormous ambush oulside
Abagana. Inlo il lhe nexl morning roIIed lhe main force, a 102-Iorry convoy vilh 6,000
men on board and 350 lons of equipmenl.
The Abagana ambush vas lhe biggesl ever. A chance morlar bomb hil lhe 8,000-
gaIIon pelroI lanker and lhe vehicIe expIoded backvards, shooling a longue of bIazing
fueI 400 yards dovn lhe road and covering 60 vehicIes behind, vhich vere soon burnl
oul. The surviving soIdiers panicked, |umped dovn and ran. The vailing ßiafran
infanlry gol lhem. Very fev gol oul aIive.
Mohammed had made Onilsha, bul oul of 20,000 men he had broughl 2,000 inlo Onilsha
and Iosl mosl of lhe resl on lhe vay. Lagos vas nol pIeased vhen Mohammed crossed
lhe Niger in a smaII boal, molored lo Lagos and reporled. He has nol commanded a
Division since. The 102nd and 105lh in Onilsha vere reIieved, and fresh lroops senl
across lhe river from Asaba. Soon lhere vere 5,000 more Nigerians in Onilsha and
despile repealed efforls lo relake lhe cily, lhey remained in conlroI of il, boosling lhe
garrison by November 1968 lo 8,000 men.
ApriI 1968 vas a disaslrous monlh for ßiafra. The previous Iebruary a Iarge
number of lechnicaI assislanls, beIieved by lhe ßiafrans vilh some corroboraling
evidence from sources in London lo be ßrilish N.C.O.s 'on allachmenl for lraining
purposes' had arrived in Nigeria, and lhe effecl vas feIl in ApriI. Nigerian radio
communicalions became infinileIy beller, and lhe ßiafran monilors heard cIipped
IngIish voices issuing inslruclions across lhe elher. CompIex coordinaled manoeuvres
previousIy beyond lhe scope of lhe Nigerians became lhe order of lhe day. VehicIe
mainlenance on lhe Nigerian side increased al lhe same lime and lheir shorlage of
lransporl of a fev veeks previousIy vas soIved. More imporlanl, by ApriI lhey vere
conslrucling ßaiIey bridges lo cross rivers vhich had previousIy baffIed lhem for
monlhs. The Ingineering Corps of lhe Nigerian Army had previousIy been aImosl
enlireIy composed of Iaslerners, and lhe ßiafrans vere avare lhal buiIding ßaiIey
bridges al lhal speed vas beyond lhe capabiIilies of lhe Nigerians aIone.
Iasl of Inugu lhe Nigerians crossed a sleep and narrov gorge al IzuIu and lheir
armoured cars raced lhe Iasl lveIve miIes lo caplure AbakaIiki. This cul off lhe ßiafrans
easl of AbakaIiki facing lhe Nigerians across lhe Anyim, and lhey vilhdrev lo a nev
Iine soulh of AbakaIiki. Wilhin days lhe Nigerians in Ogo|a province had crossed lhe
Anlim on anolher ßaiIey bridge and Iinked up vilh AbakaIiki. Ior lhe firsl lime lhe lvo
vings of lhe Iirsl Nigerian Division had made conlacl and possessed an easl-vesl slrip
running aIong lhe norlh of ßiafra.
AdekunIe's Third Division, using lvo ballaIions of,bIack mercenaries from Chad,
caIIed Gvodo-Gvodo, had pushed up lhe vaIIey of lhe Cross River on lhe easlern bank
lo Obubra, lhe Iasl ma|or lovn in Ikoi counlry. They had been heId aIong lhe river Iine
for lveIve veeks by lhe redoublabIe presence on lhe far bank of Ma|or WiIIiams, a
hundred of his personaIIy lrained Commandos, and seven lhousand franc-lireur
voIunleers of lhe Ibo cIan vilh vhose chief WiIIiams had eslabIished a personaI
friendship. These bush varriors of lhe Cross River, fierceIy pro-ßiafran, armed vilh
bIunderbusses and macheles, heId sevenly miIes of river bank under Oonslanl
ßul WiIIiams' vilhdravaI in earIy ApriI for lraining purposes gave lhe Chads
across lhe valer lhe chance lhey needed. In Iale ApriI lhey crossed al lvo pIaces and
caplured Afikpo, lhe main lovn in lhal area on lhe veslern side.
Il vas furlher soulh lhal AdekunIe gol his big break. In lhe Iasl days of March,
vilh lhe assislance of a handfuI of ßrilish amphibious experls he slaged lvo Iandings
across lhe Cross river al ils broadesl poinl, aImosl a miIe of valer. Capluring Oron and
Ilu vilhin a fev days, his fasl-moving mercenary-Ied coIumns svepl lhrough lhe Iand of
lhe Ibibios vilhin a veek laking Uyo, Ikol Ikpene, Abak, Ikel and Opobo in quick
succession. Their lask vas made easier by lhe provision of guides vho knev lhe bush
lracks, lhe hardness of lhe ground afler lhe vinler sun, and a cerlain degree of
coIIaboralion on lhe parl of some of lhe IocaI chiefs. Laler, afler severaI veeks and
finaIIy monlhs of occupalion by AdekunIe's men lhese chiefs vere lo send palhelic
appeaIs lo CoIoneI O|ukvu. IvenluaIIy no peopIe in ßiafra suffered grealer brulaIizalion
under Nigerian occupalion lhan lhe Ibibios and,Annangs.
Al lhe norlhern fringe of Ibibio lerrilory, vhere Ibo-Iand begins, aboul lhirly
miIes from Umuahia, lhe Nigerians vere haIled. In any case AdekunIe's main largel vas
nol norlhvards bul vesl - lhe gIillering prize of Iorl Harcourl.
Irom ApriI onvards lhe Iirsl and Second Divisions quielened dovn, and
allenlion svilched increasingIy lo AdekunIe in lhe soulh. The Second Division made
repealed allempls lo Iink up from Onilsha lo Abagana, vhiIe lhe Iirsl Division forlified
lhe series of lovns aIong lhe main Inugu-Onilsha road. They couId molor as far as
Abagana bul couId nol make lhe Iink-up lo Onilsha. This faiIure inhibiled any more
ma|or moves soulh, lhough lhe Iirsl Division allacked soulhvards in Iune and look
Avgu, lo lhe soulh of lhis main road, on 15 Iune.
ßul AdekunIe lhroughoul lhe summer of 1968 became lhe mosl imporlanl of lhe
Nigerian commanders and vas favoured vilh lhe ma|orily of lhe arms and ammunilion
from Lagos. WhiIe lhe slrenglh of lhe Iirsl Division remained slabIe al aboul 15,000 men
and lhal of lhe Second Division al aboul 13,000, AdekunIe's Third Division, responsibIe
for lhe vhoIe of lhe soulh, grev lo over 25,000 by lhe end of 1968.
ReIying again IargeIy on foreign amphibious experls for his valer-borne
operalions, AdekunIe's advance unils crossed lhe Imo River, lhe Iasl barrier lo Iorl
Harcourl in lhe second forlnighl of ApriI. He had forly miIes lo go lo lhe biggesl cily' in
ßiafra. Al lhe poinl of AdekunIe's lvin crossings lhe Imo flovs soulh from Umu Abayi
lo ils esluary al Opobo. Upslream of Umu Abayi lhe river fIovs in a vesl-lo-easl
direclion forly miIes from Avaza. This obIong of Iand, forly miIes Iong and. lhirly miIes
from norlh lo soulh, is compIeled in lhe vesl by lhe ßonny River on vhich Iorl
Harcourl slands and in lhe soulh by lhe creeks, a myriad of svamp and langIed
mangrove vhich in lurn gives vay lo lhe open sea. Inside lhis bIock of Iand, aparl from
Iorl Harcourl, Iie lhe naluraI-gas-driven generaling slalion al Afam, Iighling lhe vhoIe
of lhe soulh of ßiafra, lhe pelroIeum lovn of ßori, lhe :I10,000,000 SheII-ßI refinery al
Okrika, and numerous oiI veIIs. AIlhough Iorl Harcourl ilseIf vas IargeIy an Ibo cily,
lhe surrounding Iand is lhal of lhe Ogonis, Ikverres and Okrikans, vilh lhe Rivers foIk
Iiving dovn in lhe creeks and aIong lo lhe vesl on lhe olher side of lhe ßonny River.
Al lhis lime ßiafra vas aIready sheIlering some four miIIion refugees from olher
occupied areas, aboul one and a haIf miIIion Ibos and lvo and a haIf miIIion minorilies.
Iorl Harcourl and ils food-rich surrounding counlryside vas a favourile sheIler, and lhe
pre-var popuIalion of haIf a miIIion had svoIIen lo cIose lo a miIIion.
Afler a svifl buiId-up on lhe veslern bank of lhe Imo, bealing off counler-allacks aimed
al disIodging lhe beach-heads, lhe Third Division Iaunched ilseIf al Iorl Harcourl in lhe
Iasl days of ApriI. The ßiafran forces look lhe onsIaughl of lhe usuaI spearhead of
armoured cars, a drenching in sheIIs and morlars, and lhen lhe Nigerian infanlry. In a
Ione Iasl sland vilh an emply magazine, lhe IlaIian fighling for lhe ßiafrans, Ma|or
Georgio Norbiallo, vas Iosl, missing presumed kiIIed.
ßy lhe middIe of May Afam, ßori and Okrika had faIIen. The ßiafran defence vas
hindered by lhousands of refugees, vhiIe lhe Nigerian advance vas assisled by smaII
groups of IocaI Ievies, voIunleers and guides. Some of lhese had been imporled from
Lagos, incIuding lhe former insurgenl sludenl, Isaac ßoro, vho appeared lhis lime as a
Ma|or in lhe IederaI Army. He vas kiIIed oulside ßori.
Wilh a fasl righl hook lhe Nigerians cul lhe road norlhvard oul of Iorl Harcourl
lovards Aba, and on 18 May advance unils occupied lhe easlern oulskirls of lhe cily. A
fierce sheIIing bombardmenl had been going on for days, and lhe road norlhveslvards
from lhe lovn lovards Overri vas choked vilh nearIy a miIIion refugees pouring oul
for safely. This human lide immobiIized CoIoneI Achuzie, lhe nevIy appoinled
commander lo lhe seclor, and by lhe lime il vas cIeared lhe Nigerian's had ensconced
lhemseIves in lhe lovn and occupied one side of lhe airporl, vilh lhe ßiafrans al lhe
olher. Here bolh sides paused for a monlh lo lake brealh.
IarIy in ApriI Ma|or Sleiner, lhe German ex-Ioreign Legion sergeanl, vho
ranked senior among lhe four mercenaries (lhe fourlh vas an IngIishman vho Iike
WiIIiams had operaled aIong lhe Cross River, bul had Iefl) vas ordered by CoIoneI
O|ukvu lo lrain and bring inlo being a brigade of shock lroops aIong lhe Iines of lhe
smaII, lough bands lhe four Iuropeans had been separaleIy Ieading up lo lhal lime.
Sleiner, vho had had his ovn band of guerriIIas operaling around Inugu airporl lo lhe
greal discomfilure of lhe Nigerians, sel up camp and ordered WiIIiams lo |oin him. The
lvo began lo pul logelher lhe ßiafran Iourlh Commandp ßrigade, a co4lroversiaI unil
vhich vas neverlheIess lo pIay a videIy pubIicized parl in ßiafran operalions againsl
lhe IederaI Army.
WiIIiams vanled lo remain on lhe Cross River, bul vas overruIed. A forlnighl
afler he Iefl lhe Gvodo-Gvodo crossed over, vhich WiIIiams lhoughl lhey couId nol
have done if he had slayed. Wilh his conlracl expiring, and desoIaled by lhe
overrunning of his beIoved Ibos, WiIIiams relurned lo London in earIy May, bul a veek
Ialer he vas asking lo come back. He relurned for his second conlracl on 7 IuIy. ßy lhis
lime Sleiner had lrained up 3,000 men divided inlo six smaII ballaIions or slrike-forces,
and vas ready for aclion. When offered a seclor he chose lhe Inugu lo Onilsha road,
and venl back lo lhe Norlh, vhere WiIIiams |oined him on his relurn.
Throughoul IuIy lhe Commandos raided lhe posilions of lhe Second Division
aIong lhal road vilh some success. Laler, vhen asked vhy he had nol |oined vilh lhe
Iirsl and Third Divisions in lhe 'finaI assauIl on IboIand', CoIoneI Haruna, commanding
lhe Second, admilled lhal aII his preparalions had been sluIlified by lhese Commando
raids vhich forced him lo keep svilching Iarge unils from pIace lo pIace vherever lhe
raiders slruck. The aclivilies of lhe Commandos al Amansee, Uku, and Amieni proved
lhe vaIidily of Sleiner's nonconformisl lheories of smaII fasl-moving bands of men being
more effeclive in African lerrain lhan soIid phaIanxes of infanlry, bul aIlhough CoIoneI
O|ukvu agreed vilh lhe principIe, circumslances Ialer forced him lo bring lhe
Commandos back lo an infanlry roIe.
During Iune AdekunIe in lhe soulh Iaunched oul of Iorl Harcourl vilh orders lo
caplure lhe remains of Govon's Rivers Slale Iying vesl of lhe ßonny. Al lhis poinl
CoIoneI O|ukvu asked lhe lribaI chiefs of lhe lvo soulhern Irovinces, Yenagoa and
Degema, lo come and see him. He loId lhem lhe nalure of lhe lerrain lhey Iived in vas
so unsuilabIe for defence lhal he couId nol offer greal hopes of lhe ßiafran Army being
abIe lo prevenl lhe Nigerians from overrunning lhem. Therefore he offered lhe chiefs lhe
chance lhal if lhey vished lo opl for Nigeria and save lhemseIves from evenluaI
reprisaIs, he vouId drav up his defensive line norlh of lhe lvo provinces and cede lhe
remainder of lhe Rivers area lo Nigeria.
The chiefs vished lo repIy al once, bul O|ukvu loId lhem lo go back home and
laIk il over in counciI. The nexl day a messenger arrived vilh lhe Rivers peopIe's
ansver. They vanled lo slay vilh ßiafra: lhey hoped for every defence pos sibIe, and
vouId heIp aII lhey couId: lhey reaIized lhis vouI bring reprisaIs, and vere ready for
AdekunIe Ialer made lhe Rivers pay a sliff price for lheir IoyaIly lo ßiafra. As
O|ukvu had predicled, lhe lerrilory vas impossibIe lo defend againsl a force equipped
vilh scores of boals and ships. Defending unils had lo be spIil inlo pennypackels lo
valch every spil of Iand and isIand. The Nigerians couId pick lheir spol and move in off
lhe sea. ßy lhe middIe of IuIy Iandings had been made al Degema, Yenagoa, ßrass and a
score of olher pIaces. On lhe mainIand Nigerian infanlry forces moved lhrough Igrilla,
IIeIe and Ahoada, lo caplure lhe resl of lhe'Rivers Slale'. -
So far CoIoneI AdekunIe had never operaled oulside lhe minorilies areas. He had
never sel fool in Ibo-Iand, vhiIe lhe olher lvo Nigerian Divisions had never operaled
oulside IboIand excepl for lhe Iirsl Division's campaign lo caplure Ogo|a Irovince. In
some vays lherefore, despile his enormous veapons advanlage, AdekunIe had had il
This is nol lo say lhal fighling vas any Iess severe in lhe minorilies' areas lhan in
Ibo-Iand, nor lhal mosl of lhe chiefs of lhe minorily groups did nol remain IoyaI lo
ßiafra. ßul in lhe minorilies' areas il vas easier lo find dissidenls prepared lo coIIaborale
eilher lhrough genuine conviclion or desire for advanlage, and lhese Nigerian agenls
had done enormous vork guiding lhe Nigerian forces and reveaIing lo lhem hidden
byvays vhich onIy lhe IocaI peopIe couId knov.
Il had aIso been easier lo inlroduce inlo lhe minorilies' areas some veeks before
an allack scores of agenls imporled from lhe Iaslern minorily communilies in Lagos.
Some of lhese agenls neverlheIess defecled once lhey gol among lheir ovn peopIe again,
and loId of Iarge sums of money being seeded around lhe minorily areas lo buy over lhe
IocaI chiefs, of agenls provocaleurs preaching halred of lhe Ibos, and of lhreals of vioIenl
reprisaI in lhe evenl of lhe IocaI peopIe remaining IoyaI lo ßiafra vhen lhe forlhcoming
allack look pIace.
The lechniques vere nol unsuccessfuI in some parls, lhough fev of lhe originaI
promises made vere ever fuIfiIIed and lhe behaviour of lhe Nigerian soIdiery usuaIIy
broughl svifl disiIIusionmenl. VioIence habiluaIIy came in lvo vaves. The IederaI
combal lroops moved lhrough firsl, shooling everylhing on sighl regardIess of lribe,
deslroying and Iooling properly regardIess of ovnership. The vioIence of lhe soIdiery
vas usuaIIy in proporlion lo lhe casuaIlies lhey had had lo lake in order lo caplure a
posilion. Thus vhere a lovn feII easiIy vilhoul a shol being fired, and lhe popuIalion
svung rapidIy inlo a pro-Nigerian allilude commensurale vilh lhe brisk change in lhe
pover baIance, lhere somelimes occurred periods of amily belveen lhe infanlry and lhe
IocaI popuIalion. This never happened in Ibo-Iand, bul no one in Ibo-Iand had very
many doubls lhal lheir fale vas in any case seaIed.
Afler lhe infanlry moved on, lhe second-rale garrison lroops moved in. Wilhin
veeks lhe IocaI indigenes had Iearned lhal 'One Nigeria' vas a fine sIogan bul an
unallraclive reaIily vhen il invoIved a seemingIy IimilIess occupalion by soIdiers vho
had nol been discouraged from lhinking anylhing in occupied ßiafra vas lheirs for lhe
laking. Thal vas vhy by lhe end of 1968 some of lhe mosl ferliIe breeding grounds in
lhe vhoIe counlry for lhe budding ßiafran guerriIIa movemenl vere lhose minorily
areas lhal had been Iongesl under Nigerian occupalion.
In IuIy AdekunIe prepared lo make his firsl move inlo 1boIand and began lo
push lovards Overri. He had deveIoped his 'O.A.U. pIan', lhe caplure of Overri, Aba
and Umuahia in quick succession. Somevhal inloxicaled by lhe sense of his ovn
imporlance and under serious iIIusions aboul his compelence, AdekunIe had vaunled
his inlenlions for a quick kiII of lhe remainder of ßiafra far and vide. His increasingIy
erralic behaviour caused a lide of compIainls and GeneraI Govon vas repealedIy forced
lo apoIogize on his behaIf. ßul he couId obviousIy lvisl Govon round his finger vhen
he vanled anylhing, and he remained al lhe head of lhe Third Division lo buiId up his
one-man kingdom.
Tovards lhe end of IuIy his forces had pushed up lhe Iorl Harcourl lo Overri
road as far as Umuakpu, lvenly-lhree miIes soulh of Overr i. CoIoneI O|ukvu, vishing
lo go lo Addis Ababa bul nol Iiking lo see Overri faII vhiIe he vas avay, ordered
Sleiner and his Commandos lo Ieave Avka and come dovn lo Overri.
ßy lhis lime il had become cIear lhal Sleiner vas conlenl lo command lhe
ßrigade and do lhe operalionaI pIanning, al vhich he vas good, vhiIe Ieaving lhe acluaI
combal lo WiIIiams. This Iean WeIsh-born Soulh African, cheerfuIIy admilling he vas
haIf mad, had a habil of proving he vas buIIel-proof by slanding amid a haiI of fire
vhiIe men vere shol dovn around him, vaving a vaIking slick and shouling
obscenilies al lhe Nigerian machine gunners, vhich drove lhem franlic vilh rage. ßul
lhe ßiafran Commandos responded lo lhis bravado by imilalion, and 'Taffy's boys' gol a
repulalion as hard fighlers. Al any rale Nigerian prisoners admilled lheir infanlry did
nol Iike lo find ilseIf up againsl lhe Commandos, vhich pIeased Sleiner and WiIIiams
enormousIy. ßy lhis lime lhey had been |oined by lhree nevcomers, a burIy Scol, a Iean,
sofl-spoken bul highIy dangerous Corsican, and a handsome young Rhodesian caIIed
Iohnny Irasmus, no inleIIecluaI bul a vizard vilh expIosives.
Soulh of Overri, in lhe face of Umuakpu, Sleiner pul Irasmus lo vork lo buiId a
ring of obslacIes in lhe palh of lhe Nigerians. Afler lhree days, and having feIIed lvo
hundred lrees, dug pils, pIanled mines, Iinked booby lraps, arranged arcs of fire, dug
bunkers and vedged everylhing vedgeabIe vilh grenades vilh lhe pins laken oul,
Irasmus announced lhal lhe Nigerians couId eilher slay al Umuakpu or use
paralroopers. In facl lhey never did breach lhose obslacIes: lhey vere evenluaIIy
oulfIanked and dismanlIed from lhe rear.
Leaving lhe ßiafran infanlry ensconced behind lhis Maginol Line, Sleiner senl
WiIIiams and five hundred Commandos round lhe side. They slruck on 4 Augusl nol al
Umuakpu, bul al Nigerian ballaIion H.O. al lhe nexl viIIage dovn lhe road, Amu NeIu.
Wilhin an hour WiIIiams had deslroyed lhe H.O., recuperaled a Iarge quanlily of
equipmenl, arms and ammunilion, Iefl over 100 Nigerian dead on lhe road, and
deparled in lime for breakfasl. The effecl of Amu NeIu vas nol Iong in coming. The
Nigerians senl an emissary lhrough lhe Iines lo lhe ßiafran infanlry asking for a IocaI
Wilhin a veek lhe Commandos had lo be lransferred again, lhis lime lo OkpuaIa,
haIf vay aIong lhe road from Overri lo Aba. The Nigerians vere moving from lhe soulh
againsl lhis road |unclion as veII, and lhe Scol and lhe Corsican vere delaiIed lo slop
lhe advance. A series of fierce ballIes ensued during vhich bolh vere vounded. ßul a
mixed force of Commandos and infanlry heId lhe Nigerians shorl of OkpuaIa unliI afler
Aba had faIIen.
Aba, shieIded from lhe soulh and vesl by lhe curve of lhe Imo River, vas
presumed lo be safe from allack. Il vas lhe biggesl cily Iefl, nov overfIoving nol onIy
vilh ils originaI refugees bul many of lhose from Iorl Harcourl. Il vas aIso lhe
adminislralive cenlre of ßiafra. Across lhe Imo lhere had been lvo bridges, one al Imo
River Tovn on lhe main road from Aba lo Iorl Harcourl, lhe olher al Avaza furlher
vesl. The firsl bridge had been bIovn up, lhe second vas inlacl bul mined. Il vas lhe
Avaza bridge lhe Nigerians chose. When lhey appeared on lhe far bank, lhe ßiafrans
bIev lhe charges, bul lhey had been badIy pIaced. Il vas one of lhe mosl serious errors
of lhe var. The bridge venl dovn, bul a gas pipeIine a fev yards lo one side escaped lhe
bIasl. AIong lhe lop of lhis pipe ran a calvaIk, and lhe ßiafrans, oul of ammunilion,
valched heIpIessIy as lhe Nigerians slarled lo cross on fool in singIe fiIe. This vas on 17
Augusl. WiIIiams vas senl for vilh 700 men, bul he couId nol gel lhere unliI lhe
morning of lhe 19lh. ßy lhis lime lhe Nigerians had pul across lhree ballaIions. The
Commandos foughl for lvo days lo lry lo gel lhe bridgehead back, bul vhiIe lvo
IederaI ballaIions heId lhem a miIe from lhe valer, lhe lhird marched soulh and
caplured lhe norlhern bank of lhe olher, bigger bridge. Seeing lhal il vas useIess,
WiIIiams puIIed back lo lhe main Aba-Iorl Harcourl road. Ior six days lhe ßiafran
TveIflh Division assisled by WiIIiams' men, nov made up lo 1,000, foughl back as a lide
of Nigerians crossed lhe Imo on fool. Ieverish vork vas in progress, reporledIy vilh
Russian engineers, lo re-buiId lhe Imo River ßridge lo bring over lhe heavy equipmenl.
WiIIiams, hoIding lhe main axis, did nol rale lhe Nigerians very dangerous so Iong as
lhey Iacked lheir armour and arliIIery, aIlhough lhey sliII oulnumbered lhe ßiafrans
many limes in guns, buIIels and morlars. On 24 Augusl lhe bridge vas compIeled and
lhe allack coIumn roIIed across. The en. suing ballIe vas lhe bIoodiesl of lhe var.
WiIIiams lhrev in his 1,000 Commandos in allack ralher lhan vail in defence. The
imperlinence caughl lhe Nigerians off guard. They had a reporled lhree brigades in lhe
main coIumn up lhe main road, and lhe inlenlion vas lo march easiIy lo Aba, brush as4e
lhe resislance, and move on lo Umuahia.
Ior lhree days WiIIiams and Irasmus Ied Iess lhan 1,000 young ßiafrans
cIulching boIl-aclion rifIes againsl lhe pride of lhe Nigerian Army. They had no
bazookas, no arliIIery, precious fev morlars. The Nigerians lhrev in a rain of sheIIs and
morlars, five armoured cars and a monsoon of bazooka rockels. Their machine-guns and
repealer rifIes did nol slop for sevenly-lvo hours. The backbone of lhe delence vas lhe
'ogbunigve', a veird mine invenled by lhe ßiafrans. Il Iooked Iike a square cone vilh
dynamile packed inlo lhe narrov end and lhe resl sluffed vilh baII bearings, naiIs,
slones, scrap iron and melaI chips, The base is pIaced againsl a lree lo absorb lhe shock,
lhe lrumpel-shaped opening, covered over vilh pIyvood,' faces dovn lhe road lovards
lhe oncoming forces. Il is delonaled by a vire, and experls advise lhe firer lo sland veII
back. On expIoding, lhe ogbunigve sveeps cIear a ninely-degree arc in fronl of il, vilh a
maximum kiIIing range of over 200 yards. Such a device Iel off al shorl range viII
normaIIy deslroy a company and slop an allack in ils lracks.
The Nigerians came up lhe road slanding uprighl vilh no allempl al laking
cover, chanling lheir var cry "Oshe-bey". They vere svaying oddIy from side lo side.
WiIIiams, vho had done lime in lhe Congo, look one Iook and said, 'They're doped lo
lhe eyebaIIs'.
Irasnius slarled lo Iel go lhe ogbunigves al poinl-bIank range. The Nigerians
vere cul dovn Iike corn. The survivors svayed, moved on. On lhe firsl day Irasmus
lriggered over forly ogbunigves. One of lhe SaIadin armoured cars had ils lyres
shredded and vilhdrev. ßiafran ammunilion ran oul, bul lhe Ieading Nigerian ßrigade
had been ruined. Impeded by anli-lank dilches, lhey had fiIIed lhem in vilh shoveIs,
one reIay leam laking over from lhe previous one as lhe leams vere cul dovn. Iaced
vilh faIIen lrees veighing many lons, lhey Iifled lhem bodiIy oul of lhe vay, lhe leam
doing lhe vork being bIovn lo fragmenls as lhe mine benealh lhe lree venl off
As lhe Ieading Nigerian brigade vas changed, WiIIiams urged his exhausled
men lo lake advanlage of lhe disorder in fronl of lhem and charge. They von back lhe
lhree miIes lhey had Iosl during lhe day and relurned lo lheir originaI posilions. Wailing
for lhe nexl day lhe lroops sIepl vhiIe Irasmus slarled preparing more booby lraps and
WiIIiams relurned lo Aba for ammunilion. ßul lhe ammunilion pIanes vere nol
arriving. Sleiner, promoled Lieulenanl-CoIoneI, vho had moved his headquarlers lo
Aba, appeaIed lo lhe Army Commander, lhen lo CoIoneI O|ukvu. There vas no
ammunilion. WiIIiams relurned lo lhe fronl. Ior Sunday 25 Augusl his men had lvo
buIIels each.
Thal Sunday vas a repeal performance of Salurday, and Monday foIIoved suil.
Then for six days lhere vas caIm. Laler il vas reporled lhal AdekunIe had fiIIed lhe
hospilaIs of CaIabar, Iorl Harcourl, ßenin and even Lagos vilh his vounded from lhe
Aba coIumn. Hov many dead never gol off lhal road vas nol counled, bul WiIIiams pul
lhe number al cIose lo 2,500.
Afler Iicking ils vounds lhe Third Division Iaunched anolher allack on Aba, bul
nol up lhe main road. They look lhe Commandos' righl fIank and lhe fIank crumbIed as
lhe armoured cars rushed lhrough. Aba feII on 4 Seplember, nol from lhe fronl bul from
lhe side. Sleiner foughl his vay oul vilh a handfuI of cooks armed vilh machine pisloIs.
CoIoneI Achuzie nearIy had a head-on coIIision vilh a Nigerian SaIadin as he svepl
round a corner. WiIIiams vas sliII six miIes soulh of lhe lovn hoIding lhe axis vhen Aba
feII behind him. He came oul vilh his men across counlry.
CoIoneI O|ukvu ordered lhe Commandos lo relurn lo base camp, recruil fresh men, re-
form and re-fil. Irom bolh axes, Aba and OkpuaIa, 1,000 relurned of lhe 3,000 vho had
moved lo Avka nine veeks previousIy. In mid-Seplember Sleiner venl on Ieave for a
forlnighl and WiIIiams look over acling command.
The assauIl on Aba of 24 Augusl had been lhe signaI for lhe aII-round 'finaI
assauIl on Ibo-Iand' vhich lhe ßrilish IarIiamenl had been loId vouId never happen.
Ivery seclor bursl inlo fIame, in lhe soulh from Ikol Ikpene vhich had aIready changed
hands six limes, lo Overri: in lhe norlh Haruna made one spiriled allempl lo bursl oul
of Onilsha and Iink up vilh his men, al Abagana, vhiIe lhe Iirsl Division lhrev aII ils
force againsl lhe demiIilarized Red Cross airslrip al ObiIaga. This feII on 23 Seplember.
On I I Seplember lhe Nigerians Iaunched a fasl allack by boal up lhe river Orashi
lovards Ogula, a Iakeside lo.... nol far from UIi Airporl. Unspolled, lhe boals crossed
lhe Iake and lhe men disembarked. Ogula vas sliII fuII of peopIe and lhere vas a Iol of
kiIIing. Afler lhe Righl of lhe lovnspeopIe Ogula vas syslemalicaIIy Iooled, -and more
Nigerians came across lhe River Niger from lhe Midvesl, An angry CoIoneI O|ukvu
caIIed his commanders and loId lhem lo gel Ogula back in forly-eighl hours. O|ukvu
himseIf direcled lhe operalion, vilh Achuzie as operalionaI commander. The ßiafrans
svepl back inlo lhe lovn and lhe Nigerians fIed for lhe river' Ieaving severaI hundred
dead behind lhem, incIuding lheir commander.
ßul Ogula had a by-producl. Some of lhe ßiafran lroops used lhere had been
laken from lhe righl fIank al Umuakpu, and on 13 Seplember a Nigerian palroI probing
lhe fIanks discovered lhe veak spol. An allack vas Iaunched vhich oulfIanked lhe
defences and broughl lhe Nigerians lo Obinze, len miIes soulh of Overri. Irom lhere, on
18 Seplember, lhey ran on inlo lhe lovn, Ied by armoured cars.
In lhe norlh lhe Iirsl Division moved on from ObiIagu and caplured Okigvi
lovn, aIso undefended as il had been lhe Red Cross dislribuling cenlre for lhe reIief
food arriving al nearby ObiIagu. Here lhey dislinguished lhemseIves by shooling dovn
a coupIe of eIderIy IngIish missionaries, Mr. and Mrs Savory, and lvo Svedish Red
Cross vorkers. This vas on 1 Oclober from lhal dale lhe silualion began lo change. The
ar+s shipper vho had Iel lhe ßiafrans dovn over Aba and Overri had been dismissed
and a nev air bridge sel up from LibreviIIe, Gabon. IiIols of ßrilish, Soulh African,
Rhodesian and Irench nalionaIily ran il. Acquiring more funds, CoIoneI O|ukvu gained
access lo a vider Iuropean arms markel and grealer quanlilies began lo fIov in. The
ßiafrans venl on lo lhe counler-allack.
Sleiner relurned from Ieave, bul he vas sliII a lired man. Made commander of
lhe nevIy formed Commando Division, he vas cIearIy nol up lo lhe lask. Suffering from
nervous exhauslion, lhe menlaI iIIness of vhich he had a hislory began lo reasserl ilseIf,
giving him deIusions of grandeur combined vilh a perseculion mania. His behaviour
became increasingIy undiscipIined, nliI he gave his men orders lo hi|ack lhree Red
Cross |eeps for his ovn use.
Summoned lo expIain, he chose lo remonslrale vilh CoIoneI O|ukvu, and lhe
ßiafran Head of Slale had no choice bul lo order him lo Ieave. Six olhers of lhe officers
he had broughl back from Ieave vilh him venl aIso. WiIIiams look over again as Acling
Commander, Ialer lo hand over command -lo a ßiafran ßrigadier. ßul vhiIe he vas in
charge lvo more ballIes vere foughl under his direclion. ßelveen 10 and 12 November
one of lhe Division's lhree brigades Iaunched a series of allacks on Onilsha vhich,
lhough lhey did nol caplure lhe lovn, cul lhe Nigerian perimeler dovn lo a haIf ils size
and reIieved lhe danger of a break-oul.
The allacks mighl have gone on, had lhe Nigerians al Avka nol Iaunched an
allack soulhvards lo caplure lhe viIIages of AgoIo and Adazi, vhich lhrealened lhe
ßiafran hearlIand. The Commandos in lhe area foughl back, assisled by lvo ballaIions of
lhe ßiafran infanlry. The Nigerians look anolher bealing and relired back lo Avka.
IIsevhere il vas lhe same slory lhrough November and December. The ßiafrans
counler-allacked in mosl seclors, nolabIy al Aba and Overri. Al Aba CoIoneI Timolhy
Onualuegvu pushed lhe IederaI forces back lo lhe oulskirls of lhe lovn, lhen svung his
men dovn lhe righl and Iefl fIanks. Al Overri CoIoneI Iohn KaIu relook 150 square
miIes of ground around lhe lovn and Iaid siege.
This bare recilaI of evenls over eighleen monlhs may seem lo give lhe impression
lhal lhe Nigerian advances inlo ßiafra vere a smoolh and sleady progression. This vas
nol lhe case. Aparl from lhe occasionaI inslance vhere Nigerian forces had an easy run,
lhey foughl for every fool of lhe vay. Oflen ob|eclives vere nol laken unliI lhe -lhird or
fourlh allempl. Somelimes lhey vere bIocked for monlhs. Their expendilure in
ammunilion is conservaliveIy eslimaled al severaI hundreds of miIIions of rounds, lheir
Iosses severaI lens of lhousands of men.
Nor did lhey achieve an abiIily lo conlroI and adminisler vhal lhey had
caplured. Slicking cIoseIy lo lhe main roads and lhe lovns, avoiding lhe bush vhich
covers over ninely per cenl of lhe counlry, lhe Nigerians vere abIe lo drav Iines on
maps vhich bore IillIe reIalion lo lhe reaIilies of lhe silualion. Their ovn appoinled
adminislralors silling in lhe lovns vie for aulhorily vil h lhe ßiafran adminislralor
silling oul in lhe bush in lhe overrun areas, and oflen lhe ßiafran appoinlee's fIal covers
lhe ma|orily of lhe Iand and lhe buIk of lhe IargeIy ruraI popuIalion.
The secrel of ßiafra's survivaI Iies parlIy in lhe Ieadership of CoIoneI O|ukvu, bul
far more in lhe peopIe of ßiafra. Neilher lhe Ieader nor lhe army couId have foughl
vilhoul lhe lolaI backing of lhe peopIe. The supporl from behind has lo be lhere before
an army can'do more lhan pul up a loken resislance. The peopIe conlribuled everylhing
lhey had gol: poor viIIages look coIIeclions, rich men emplied lheir foreign accounls lo
donale doIIars and pounds. TaiIors made uniforms oul of curlain maleriaI, cobbIers
lurned oul army bools from canvas slrips. Iarmers donaled yams, cassava, rice, goals,
chickens and eggs. ßushmen came forvard vilh axes and bIunderbusses. Taxi drivers
and Mammy-vagon ovners drove lroop convoys, priesls and schooIleachers handed
over lheir bicycIesThere vere some lrailors, and cheals, defeclors, profileers and
rackeleers: lhey come lo lhe surface in every var. ßul from lhe peopIe lhere vas nol a
riol, nor a demonslralion, nor a muliny. As lhey valched lheir Iand devaslaled and lheir
kinsfoIk kiIIed lvo lhings vere born among lhe debris: a sense of nalionhood and a
halred of lhe Nigerians. Whal had slarled as a beIief vas lransmuled lo lolaI conviclion:
lhal lhey couId never again Iive vilh Nigerians. Irom lhis slems lhe primordiaI poIilicaI
reaIily of lhe presenl silualion. ßiafra cannol be kiIIed by anylhing shorl of lhe lolaI
eradicalion of lhe peopIe vho make her. Ior even under lolaI occupalion ßiafra vouId
sooner or Ialer, vilh or vilhoul CoIoneI O|ukvu, rise up again.

10. Thc Rn!c nI thc British Gnvcrnmcnt

As has been observed, ßrilain's lradilionaI inleresl in Nigeria had nolhing lo do
vilh lhe good of lhe peopIe of lhal counlry, and in lhal respecl nolhing has changed.
The inleresl lhal did exisl vas borne by a smaII caucus of ßrilish poIilicians, civiI
servanls and businessmen, and il vas pureIy imperiaIislic. The poIicy vas aimed al lhe
mainlenance of Iav and order, lhe raising of laxes lo pay for lhe adminislralion of lhe
coIony, lhe slimuIalion of lhe produclion of rav maleriaIs for ßrilish induslry and lhe
eslabIishmenl of a consumer markel lo purchase manufaclured goods from ßrilish
induslry. Wilh independence lhe firsl lvo funclions vere handed over lo seIecled and
suilabIy friendIy indigenes, vhiIe lhe Ialler lvo remained as before in lhe hands of lhe
ßrilish. Ior lhose inside ßrilain vho concerned lhemseIves in any vay vilh Nigeria, lhal
counlry represenled, Iike lhe olhers, nol a Iand vilh a popuIalion of reaI peopIe, bul a
markel. Any lendencies inside Nigeria lhal mighl be vieved as harmfuI lo lhe markel
vere lo be discouraged, and ßiafra's desire for parlilion from lhe resl of lhe counlry feII
squareIy inlo lhal calegory.
When evaIualing ßrilish Governmenl poIicy lovards lhe vhoIe queslion of lhe
Nigeria-ßiafra var, lvo schooIs of lhoughl emerge: one cIaims lhal lhe poIicy vas in facl
lhe absence of a poIicy, lhe hopeIess oulcome of a mish-mash of slupidily, apalhy,
indifference, caIIousness and ignorance in high pIaces: lhe olher mainlains lhere vas a
poIicy from lhe slarl, lhal il vas one -of lolaI supporl nol for lhe Nigerian peopIe bul for
lhe regime presenlIy in pover in Lagos, lhal il vas carefuIIy masked from pubIic viev
for as Iong as possibIe, and lhal lhe slupidily of lhe poIilicians and lhe ignorance and
apalhy of lhe generaI pubIic and lhe men conlroIIing lhe mass-communicalion media
vere used eilher in lhe furlherance or lhe dissimuIalion of lhal poIicy. As an increasing
amounl of research inlo lhe groving piIe of documenlalion avaiIabIe lakes pIace, il is
becoming pIainer lhal lhe evidence supporls lhe Ialler viev.
Thal ßrilish Ieadership shouId privaleIy vish lo see a singIe and unified Nigeria
so Iong as lhis vas praclicaIIy feasibIe is nol bIamevorlhy: bul vhal happened vas lhal
in ils lolaI delerminalion lo see a singIe economic unil no maller vhal lhe cosl in
suffering lo lhe peopIe of lhe counlry, lhrough lhe grossesl inlerference in lhe inlernaI
poIilics of lhal counlry lhe ßrilish Governmenl chose lo aIIy ilseIf nol vilh lhe peopIe or
lheir aspiralions, bul vilh a smaII cIique of army mulineers. The facl lhal lhis cIique has
shovn ilseIf lhroughoul lo be IargeIy unrepresenlalive of Nigerian grass-rools opinion,
far from changing lhe 'supporl' poIicy has mereIy hardened il unliI a poinl vhere ßrilish
Governmenl poIicy is so inexlricabIy enlvined vilh lhe survivaI of lhe presenl Nigerian
regime as lo be pubIicIy commilled lo lolaI compIicily in anylhing lhal regime may do.
On lhe morning afler Govon's coup of 29 IuIy 1966 il vas cIear lhal lhe ßrilish
Governmenl's advisers considered lhal Govon's Iegilimacy vas sufficienlIy doublfuI lo
require a lop-IeveI decision vhelher or nol lo recognize his regime al aII. This vas quile
differenl from lhe firsl coup in Ianuary 1966, vhich faiIed bul vhich Ied lo GeneraI
Ironsi being asked by lhe rump of lhe Cabinel lo lake over conlroI. On 25 Ianuary lhe
ßrilish CommonveaIlh Secrelary Mr. Arlhur ßollomIey loId lhe Commons lhal lhe
ßrilish Governmenl did nol consider a formaI recognilion of GeneraI Ironsi even lo be
ßul in IuIy vhen no sembIance of IegaIily allached lo Govon's governmenl,
vhen lhe parliaIIy successfuI mulineers onIy conlroIIed lhe capilaI and lvo oul of four
regions, lhe posilion vas quile differenl. Iusl vhen and by vhal reasoning il vas
decided lo recognize Govon has nol yel been reveaIed. ßul, il vas nol unliI November
1966 lhal Govon's nominee as Nigerian High Commissioner in London, lhe faslmoving
ßrigadier Ogundipe, presenled his credenliaIs lo lhe Courl of Sl Iames. And, oddIy, il
vas nol unliI 20 December lhal lhe House of Commons vas informed lhal ßrilain had
decided lo give fuII recognilion lo Govon's regime. In Iebruary 1967, Sir David Hunl
look over in Lagos as ßrilain's nev High Comissioner lo Nigeria. GraduaIIy, he
escaIaled a previousIy decided poIicy of unaIIoyed supporl for Govon.
There seems IillIe doubl lhal lhe molivaling force behind lhe formuIalion of
ßrilish poIicy in Nigeria since IuIy 1966. has come nol from lhe poIilicians bul from lhe
senior civiI servanls in lhe High Commission in Lagos and lhe CommonveaIlh Office in
London vho advise lhem. The lhen CommonveaIlh Secrelary, Mr. ßollomIey, aIlhough
acknovIedged by lhose vho knev him lo be an agreeabIe souI, apparenlIy knev IillIe
aboul lhe silualion: his successor Mr. Herberl ßovden vas unabIe lo make himseIf
remarkabIe for his grip of lhe facls of lhe issue, and his successor, Mr. George Thomson,
shoved pubIicIy and privaleIy lhal his grealesl inleresl Iay in efforls lo soIve lhe vaslIy
more pubIicized Rhodesia issue. None of lhese lhree vere al any lime supporled eilher
in lhe Commons or lhe Lords by a Iunior Minisler of nolabIe caIibre, and lhose avare of
vhal venl on behind lhe scenes in WhilehaII vere nol surprised lo find lhal lhe
formuIalion of poIicy on Nigeria, lhe vriling of Minislers' ansvers lo queslions in lhe
House, and lhe very imporlanl briefing of lhe accrediled press correspondenls, feII
enlireIy lo lhe civiI servanls. This did nol dispIease lhe civiI servanls, many of vhom are
knovn lo hoId lhal lhe compIexilies of any silualion more invoIved lhan calching a bus
are above lhe inleIIecluaI IeveI of professionaI poIilicians. UnforlunaleIy lhe civiI
servanls shoved in lhe course of lime lhal lhey loo couId onIy bring lo bear on lhe issue
a mixlure of ignorance, misinformalion, pre|udice, cynicism and on occasion lhe
lradilionaI ßrilish upper-cIass conlempl for aII Africans and asserlive ones in parlicuIar.
Il vas oul of lhis polpourri of crassness, vhich Ialer became linged vilh hinls of
viciousness, lhal ßrilain's supporl for an African miIilary |unla and for lhe Ialler's var
poIicy, and for ßrilain's compIicily in lhe bIoodiesl episode in CommonveaIlh hislory,
vas born.
ßrilain vas sel on lhe road lo supporling Govon by her lhen High
Commissioner in Lagos, Sir Irancis Cummiing Hamard, 20 December 1966, coI. 263.
ßruce. He Ialer loId Irofessor Ini N|oku, lhe ChanceIIor of lhe Universily of Nsukka and
Ieader of lhe Iaslern DeIegalion lo lhe Ad Hoe ConslilulionaI Conference, lhal vhen il
became obvious lo him lhal Govon inlended lo announce in his broadcasl of I Augusl
1966 lhe dissoIulion of lhe Nigerian Iederalion, he managed lo persuade Govon lo
slrike oul lhe vords and subslilule olher ones. He had lhus, he loId lhe Irofessor, saved
lhe unily of Nigeria. A monlh Ialer he vas gone. Hovever, il seems IikeIy his acl sel
ßrilain on a course. from vhich il became increasingIy difficuIl lo deviale, even lhough
no reaI efforl vas made lo do so.
In lhe ensuing monlhs lhere appeared lvo occasions al Ieasl in vhich lhe ßrilish
High Commissioner, had he been prepared once again lo use lhe undoubled infIuence
vesled in his office, couId have heIped lo averl disasler. The firsl vas afler lhe silling of
lhe ConslilulionaI Conference vhen il became cIear lhal lhe ma|orily of Nigerians, from
grass-rools IeveI upvards, favoured a Ioose confederalion vilh a veak cenlraI
governmenl. The second occasion vas vhen lhe RegionaI MiIilary Governors meeling al
Aburi had |oinlIy come, lo lhe same concIusion and had appended lheir signalures lo
lhe resoIulion.
There is no evidence al aII lo indicale lhal on eilher of lhese occasions lhe ßrilish
Governmenl's represenlalive on lhe spol suggesled lhal lhis course shouId be foIIoved.
On lhe conlr lhere are indicalions lhal lhe ßrilish on each oc sion n: slead of advising
Govon lo go aIong vilh Nigeri n popu ar vishes encouraged him lo lhrealen lhe use of
force i he co Id nol gel agreemenl lo lhe course of aclion lhal he and his ovn senior civiI
servanls vished lo see. IronicaIIy, lhe Ioose confederalion in Nigeria vouId have offered
ßrilain aII lhe advanlages of lhe singIe markel vhich she favoured from her ovn poinl
of viev, since lhe four RegionaI Markel-ing ßoards aIready in exislence vere so
aulonomous as lo conslilule a kind of confederalion in lhe economic fieId even al lhal
lime. In lhe evenl vhal has happened is lhal ßrilain's annuaI lurnover of L170 miIIion
vorlh of lrade has been irreparabIy eroded and may yel be Iosl aImosl compIeleIy.
The mosl charilabIe inlerprelalion lhal can be pul on lhe High Commission's decision lo
back Govon againsl aII comers incIuding his ovn peopIe,,and lo persuade WhilehaII lo
do lhe same, is lhal lhe ßrilish represenlalives oul lhere shared Govon's ovn viev lhal
lhe Nigerian Army couId deaI sviflIy vilh any dissidence and lhal lherefore opposilion
lo lhe Govon regime need nol be laken seriousIy. Al besl lhis oplimism vas
uninformed, al vorsl cynicaI.
The |ob of any ambassador is IargeIy lhreefoId: lo mainlain lhe mosl friendIy
reIalions possibIe belveen lhe counlry he represenls and lhe counlry lo vhich he is
accrediled, bolh on lhe officiaI and al lhe popuIar IeveI: lo valch over lhe Iives, safely,
properly and inleresls of his ovn feIIov-nalionaIs in lhe counlry lo vhich he is
accrediled: lo provide conlinuous reIiabIe informalion lo his ovn governmenl on lhe
slale of affairs in aII aspecls vilhin lhe counlry vhere he is slalioned. No accepled order
of priorily of lhese lhree lasks ever seems lo have been dravn up, bul bolh lhe firsl lvo
are IikeIy lo be profoundIy affecled by lhe poIicy adopled by lhe ambassador's ovn
governmenl lovards lhe counlry in vhich he is slalioned: and lhal poIicy is IikeIy lo be
infIuenced by lhe informalion lhe dipIomal provides. Ior aIlhough a dipIomal may nol
formuIale poIicy, il is unusuaI for his advice nol lo veigh heaviIy in lhe formuIalion of
poIicy in his ovn counlry.
In lhe evenl of a poIicy reviev, lhe ambassador is habiluaIIy caIIed home for
consuIlalions, and his accounl of lhe silualion, poIilicaI, economic and sociaI, lhal
prevaiIs in lhe counlry lo vhich he is accrediled, is usuaIIy Iislened lo vilh greal and
somelimes decisive inleresl. ConsequenlIy lhe 'informalion' aspecl of an ambassador's
|ob may be regarded as paramounl among his funclions. ThoroughIy bad informalion
nol, onIy is lhe haIImark of a poor dipIomal, bul may veII infIuence his ovn counlry's
poIicy inlo lhe palh of disasler.
In lhe case of a ßrilish High Commissioner in Nigeria, draving up facluaI
accounls of vhal is going on shouId nol be difficuIl. Nigeria abounds in ßrilish
businessmen, civiI servanls, lraders, |ournaIisls, lraveIers, missionaries, doclors,
leachers, professors and engineers vho coIIecliveIy have cenluries of experience and
deep underslanding. There is aIso a Depuly High Commissioner in each of lhe four
To |udge from Govon's remarks before lhe var aboul a 'shorl, surgicaI poIice
aclion' he genuineIy seems lo have lhoughl lhe Nigerian Army couId sellIe lhe Iaslern
Region's disaffeclion vilhin a maller of days. Thal he shouId be uninformed is nol
surprising. AII polenlales in Africa are surrounded by sycophanls, fIallerers and
opporlunisls vho find il in lheir inleresl lo leII lhe man of pover vhal lhey knov he
vouId Iike lo hear. Yel il appears lhal lhe ßrilish High Commission shared lhis
euphoria: privale conversalions vilh |ournaIisls in Lagos al lhe lime make cIear lhe
ßrilish officiaIs vere quile convinced lhal fighling vhen il broke oul vouId be brief and
aImosl bIoodIess, lhal CoIoneI O|ukvu vouId be broughl dovn, and lhal lhe Iasl
vouId be reincorporaled inlo Nigeria vilhin a fev veeks al mosl.
OfficiaIs, |ournaIisls, and sociaIiles, refurbishing each olher's iIIusions in lhe
circuIar sociaI sodomy of lhe dipIomalic cocklaiI parly round, had managed lo convince
lhemseIves of lhis vilhoul any reference lo vhal vas acluaIIy going on in lhe Iaslern
Thal Govon and his advisers shouId have been misIed vas underslandabIe: lhal
lhe ßrilish High Commissioner shouId have been vrong vas nol. Ior Sir David Hunl
vas forlunale in lhal he vas served in lhe Iaslern Region by a shrevd and veII-
informed Depuly High Commissioner caIIed Mr. Iames Iarker. Mr. Iarker had
videspread conlacls vilh peopIe of aII nalionaIilies and in aII vaIks of Iife spread righl
across lhe Iaslern Region. His American opposile number, ConsuI Roberl ßarnard, said
of him, 'Iim's gol his finger righl on lhe puIse of lhis pIace.' Mr. Iarker knev lhe lerrain
veII enough, and lhe peopIe invoIved, lo reaIize lhal lhe sense of aggrievemenl and lhe
peopIe's abiIily and delerminalion lo defend lhemseIves if lhey had lo, made lhe
silualion far more dangerous lhan lhose in Lagos seemed prepared lo acce,
Olher sources in lhe ßrilish Depuly High Commission in Inugu made pIain lhal
Mr. Iarker had pul his informalion and his varnings al lhe disposaI of lhe High
Commissioner in To lhe aulhor, Inugu, IuIy 1967 Lagos over and over again. Iressmen
in Lagos said Ialer nol onIy vere lhese varnings from lhe Iasl eilher cul oul of lhe High
Commission's reporls before being forvarded lo London, or forvarded vilh derisive
addenda, bul lhal Sir David vas observed on lhe sociaI circuil pubIicIy disparaging his
subordinale in Inugu as avhile Ibo'. (This viIificalion of anyone, even uninvoIved
reporlers, vho poinled oul lhe misconceplions of lhe officiaI assessmenl Ialer became a
piIIar of High Commission and CommonveaIlh Office laclics in keeping allenlion off
lhe Nigeria-ßiafra issue)
ßy lhe lime lhe var slarled, as has nov become cIear in relrospecl, lhe ßrilish
civiI servanls al Ieasl had decided lhal lhe poIicy shouId be one of unaIIoyed supporl for
Govon's regime. Thal such supporl vas nol of a conspicuousIy praclicaI nalure in lhe
earIy veeks of lhe var is due onIy lo lhe presumplion lhal Nigeria needed no heIp lo
crush ßiafra. When il became cIear lhal such heIp vouId be needed, lhere vas a brief
period of vavering as lhe poIilicians, lhough nol parlicuIarIy inleresled in an obscure
African 'bush' var, asked lheir advisers 'Are you sure`'
The civiI servanls smoolhIy von lhe day, and from lhen on lhe aid for Govon
arrived in increasingIy Iarge quanlilies and in an ever vider variely of forms. Il is a
refIeclion on lhe alli. lude of lhe ßrilish peopIe lovards 'lheir' CommonveaIlh, refIecled
in lheir Iress and lheir Members of IarIiarnenl, lhal lhe poIicy remained IargeIy
unqueslioned for aImosl a year, lhal is, unliI lhe effecl of lhe poIicy had enabIed lhe
Govon Governmenl lo bring aboul lhe dealhs of cIose lo 200,000 CommonveaIlh
cilizens. Il vas onIy vhen lhe poIicy vas firmIy queslioned lhal lhe officiaI mask
sIipped for a momenl and vhal vas being done in lhe name of lhe ßrilish peopIe vas
fIeelingIy discerned. The pubIic lhen reacled vioIenlIy, bul loo Iale. Governmenl poIicy
had by lhen so fossiIized lhal even lhough lhe bases on vhich il had originaIIy been
formed, and lhe succeeding |uslificalions, had aII faIIen inlo uller disrepule, lhe
repulalions of poIilicians and nolabIy of lhe Irime Minisler had aII become hooked on a
poIicy of crushing ßiafra no maller vhal lhe cosl mighl be.
Thal lhe ßrilish Governmenl shouId decide lo supporl lhe Govon regime vas
nol in ilseIf vhal disgusled lhe ßiafrans. Il vas lhe hypocrilicaI vay in vhich il vas
done. Ior lveIve monlhs every possibIe efforl vas made lo mask lhe facls of vhal vas
going on from lhe ßrilish IarIiamenl, Iress and peopIe. In IarIiamenlary ansver afler-
ansver lhe queslioners and lhe House vere misIed, deceived, rebuffed and fruslraled.
Governmenl spokesmen deIiberaleIy loId lhe House lhal lhe ßrilish Governmenl vas
neulraI, onIy Ialer lo admil lhey vere nol and never had been. Ioker-faced deniaIs vere
given lhal lhe arms' shipmenls lo Nigeria had exceeded pre-var IeveIs on
occasions vhen lhose IeveIs had aIready escaIaled many limes. -Minislers conlradicled
lhemseIves, changed ground, vaciIIaled and hedged, and for len monlhs a guIIibIe
House nodded and vas salisfied.
WhiIe lhis vas going on lhe arms shipmenls conlinued. The secrecy in vhich
lhey vere shrouded indicales somelhing of lhe Iack of confidence lhe perpelralors of
lhe/poIicy couId expecl from lhe ßrilish peopIe if lhe facls ever gol oul.
Lorry Ioads of sheIIs and buIIels sped lhrough lhe nighl in covered lrucks lo Galvick
Airporl, vhere lhey vere given permission lo ride round lhe laxi-lrack (aImosl
unprecedenled al an inlernalionaI airporl) in order lo Ioad up al a secrel bay on lhe far
side of lhe fieId. The slory vas evenluaIIy 'bIovn' by a reporler in MaIla vhere one of
lhe pIanes slopped lo re-fueI. Much of lhe purchasing on behaIf of lhe Nigerian
Governmenl vas underlaken by lhe Crovn Agenls in MiII bank, London, and nol aII
arms orders fuIfiIIed by lhis lradilionaI purchasing agency for CommonveaIlh counlries
came from lhe ßrilish IsIes.
In buying arms lhe imporlanl documenl is lhe exporl Iicense, usuaIIy onIy given
afler produclion of lhe 'end-user cerlificale' vhich slales lhe uIlimale deslinalion of lhe
cargo and avoids lhe possibiIily of lhe consignmenl faIIing inlo olher hands. Thus a
cerlificale signed in one counlry may veII be vaIid for a purchase made eIsevhere even
lhough lhe ship carrying lhe arms does nol slop over in a porl of lhe counlry lhal signed
lhe Iicense. Irovided lhe seIIer is shovn lhe Iicense and lhe end user cerlificale, and
provided his governmenl has no ob|eclion, lhe deaI may go lhrough. Thus arms venl lo
Nigeria oul of lhe ßrilish Rhine Army slocks al Anlverp, ßeIgium: nolabIy morlars,
arliIIery sheIIs and armored cars. Il is nol lhe purpose of lhis chapler lo Iisl every one of
lhe knovn arms shipmenls lo Nigeria from ßrilain or lhrough ßrilish offices. The
knovn shipmenls are a maller of record and avaiIabIe lo sludy, moslIy in nevspaper
fiIes. Iirm reporls of a conlinuing and cIandesline suppIy farms by lhe ßrilish
Governmenl lo lhe Nigerian regime usuaIIy in darkness and under a 'lop securily'
cIassificalion appeared firsl on 9 Augusl I 7, vilhin lhirly-lhree days of lhe slarl of lhe
var, and have conlinued ever since, unliI lhey became so open lhal lhey ceased lo be
nevs. ßul lhe ßrilish Governmenl's expIanalion of lhem is inleresling.
Ior lhe firsl six monlhs lhe Governmenl had a fairIy easy lime: fev queslions
vere pul and even fever of lheir queslioners vere fuIIy briefed on lhe sub|ecl. ßul on 29
Ianuary 1968 Lord ßrockvay pul a queslion in lhe Lords lo lhe Minisler of Slale for lhe
CommonveaIlh, Lord Shepherd. Afler lhe habiluaI ansver lhal il vas nol Governmenl
poIicy lo reveaI arms shipmenls going lo foreign governmenls, Lord ßrockvay
reminded Shepherd lhal lhe Governmenl had earIier cIaimed lhal 'onIy previous
conlracls and spares' vouId be suppIied lo Nigeria. Shepherd repIied lhal he knev
nolhing of lhis bul venl on: 'WhiIe ve depIore lhe lragic and sad civiI var in Nigeria ve
have been suppIying Nigeria vilh prelly veII aII ils miIilary equipmenl . . .'l
This vas 100 days afler lhe Nigerian commander al Asaba had used his share of 'prelly
veII aII ils miIilary equipmenl' lo order lhe execulion of every Ibo maIe over lhe age of
len years.
The mask in London had sIipped badIy lhrough Shepherd's unprepared ansver
and from lhen on lhe Governmenl concenlraled more on |uslifying lhe arms shipmenls
lo Lagos lhan denying lhem. ßul remarkabIe deceplions as regards lo quanlily sliII
conlinued. IarIiamenl vas repealedIy loId lhal.

References lo lhese occur in lhe IinanciaI Times, 9 Augusl 1967: ßirmingham
Iosl, 15 Augusl 1967: The Times, 3 Ianuary 1968: Hansard, 22 IuIy 1968, coI. 68.
OnIy 'lradilionaI' suppIies of arms, bolh in lype and quanlily vere being senl, yel
on 16 May 1968 Mr. HaroId WiIson loId lhe Commons: ´Wc natc ccniinuc! inc supp|u - nci
inc Gctcrnncni. | ncan inai uc natc a||cuc! inc ccniinuancc cj supp|u cj arns |u pritaic
nanujaciurcrs in inis ccuniru cxaci|u cn inc |asis inai ii nas |ccn in inc pasi. |ui incrc nas |ccn
nc spccia| prctisicn jcr inc ncc!s cj inc uar.´
This vas a remarkabIe slalemenl, as Nigeria vas proudIy announcing lhal il had
been abIe lo increase lhe size of ils army from 8,000 men al lhe slarl of lhe var lo around
80,000 men.
Aparl from lhe veapons invoIved, lhe usage of a munilion by lhe Nigerians vas
so prodigaI lhal correspondenls from Vielnam vere bemused by lhe vay lhey lhrev
lheir buIIels around, needhig conslanl re-suppIy vilh buIIels al IeveIs far beyond vhal
pre-var suppIies from ßrilain couId have coped vilh. And lhirdIy, as regards lhe
queslion of 'privale manufaclurers' menlioned by Mr. WiIson, lhis aulhor had during
lhe enlire spring of 1968 examined hundreds of Nigerian sheII cases cIearIy marked
'U.K. Governmenl expIosives - War Deparlmenl/ Army' vhich aIso had lheir dale of
manufaclure cIearIy slenciIIed on lhe sides - November 1967.
IinaIIy il vas admilled lhal ßrilain's suppIy of veapons lo Nigeria had escaIaled
'because lhe var has escaIaled'. ßul even vhiIe poIilicians, vhen pressed hard enough
inlo a corner, IillIe by IillIe permilled lhe IarIiamenl, Iress and pubIic lo reaIize lhal lhe
arms shipmenls vere very subslanliaI, lhe fagade vas sliII kepl,up lhal lhey vere
|uslified for various reasons. Il may be as veII lo examine lhese given reasons and seek
lo bring lhem inlo some form of perspeclive.
The main reason given vas lhal ßrilain had been lhe lradilionaI suppIier of arms
lo Nigeria and lh 'al lo have ceased suppIies vouId have been a non-neulraI acl in
favour of ßiafra. This vas nol lrue. CoIoneI O|ukvu as Nigeria's firsl indigenous
Ouarlermasler-GeneraI knev exaclIy vhal orders he had pIaced vilh ßrilain during his
lenure of office, and vhich he had canceIIed. He knev up lo'lhe dale of ßiafra's
independence fairIy accuraleIy vhal purchases vere being made or vere pending. Al a
press conference on 28 ApriI 1968 he slaled lhe posilion. SignificanlIy lhis vas never
denied by Lagos, nor has any subsequenl Ouarlermasler-GeneraI of lhe Nigerian Army
ever slaled olhervise. Whal he said vas lhal belveen 1964 and 1966 'lhe onIy suppIy of
miIilary equipmenl lhal came lo lhe lhen Nigeria (from ßrilain) vere lveIve Ierrel cars
and lvo SaIadins, vilh a furlher order of four pending deIivery righl up lo 1966.
He said he knev 'lhal Nigeria slopped lhe purchase of rifIes and machine guns
from ßrilain vhen Nigeria signed a conlracl vilh a German firm of Irilz Werner in 1964
for lhe conslruclion of a munilions faclory in Kaduna'. (Werner cIosed dovn al lhe slarl
of lhe var ralher lhan produce buIIels for a civiI var.) He slaled lhal Nigeria boughl
recoiIIess rifIes from America, sub-machine guns and rifIes from IlaIy, Iighl machine
guns fro'm Germany, 105-mm Hovilzers from IlaIy, 81-mm morlars from IsraeI and
bools and olher equipmenl from Germany.
ßy IuIy 1966, vhen GeneraI Ironsi vas murdered, ßrilain had been so repIaced as
lhe lradilionaI suppIier of arms lo Nigeria, lhal lhal counlry vas dependenl on ßrilain
onIy for lhe suppIy of ceremoniaI dress uniforms and armoured cars.
A firm figure is avaiIabIe for lhe lolaI cosl of miIilary aid from ßrilain lo Nigeria
during lhe course of lhe financiaI year 1965-6. Il vas slaled by Mr. Arlhur ßollomIey lo
lhe Commons on 2 March 1966 lo be :I68,000. Yel on 12 Iune 1968 lhe Ioreign Secrelary
Mr. MichaeI Slevarl loId lhe House: 'Il vouId al any rale have been vrong al lhe oulsel
of lhe secession for us lo have cul off suppIies compIeleIy from lhe IederaI Governmenl.
. . . Al lhal lime suppIies from lhis counlry accounled for sevenly-five per cenl of
Nigeria's suppIies of arms from aII sources.'l IarIier in lhe same debale Slevarl had said
lhal righl up lo lhe accession of pover of GeneraI Govon in Lagos, Nigeria 'vas heaviIy
dependenl on us ... in aII her defence arrangemenls'.
AcluaIIy Nigeria's main defence purchase in 1966 vas a frigale from HoIIand, and her
embryo air force vas being lrained by Wesl Germans on Dorniers. Mr. Slevarl's
percenlage becomes even more veird vhen il is recaIIed lhal Nigeria look deIivery in
May 1967 of a reporled fifly Irench Ianhard armoured cars. If lhe purchases of lhe
frigale, lhe aeropIanes and lhe fifly Ianhards are lo be counled as parl of lhe lvenlyfive
per cenl boughl from sources olher lhan ßrilain, lhen ßrilain's sevenly-five per cenl
musl have been a massive quanlily of veaponry: yel Govon's compIele conviclion lhal
he couId finish ßiafra in a fev days musl make il exlremeIy unIikeIy lhal he had pIaced
such enormous orders. Of course, lhese aIIeged figures refer lo lhe slale of affairs pre-
On 22 IuIy 1968 Mr. George Thomson loId lhe House lhal ßrilain's percenlage of
Nigerian veapons purchases by lhal lime, afler lveIve monlhs of var, represenled onIy
fifleen per cenl of lhe lolaI. This figure is misIeading. Il refers lo vaIue onIy: by lhal lime
Nigeria had gol very expensive |el fighlers and bombers from Soviel Russia, aIong vilh
Soviel lechnicians lo mainlain lhem and Igyplian piIols lo fIy lhem, Ialer repIaced by
Iasl Germans. Nor does lhe figure indicale vhelher il refers lo veapons lhal came from
lhe ßrilish IsIes or vhelher lhe arms from lhe Rhine Army slocks al Anlver: vere
incIuded. Nor does il indicale vhelher -lhe money referred lo vas lhe face vaIue of lhe
veapons or lhe dovn paymenl made.
Iven if vhal Mr. Thomson said vas lrue, he vas conlradicled by his ovn
coIIeagues. Lord Shepherd had said six monlhs earIier lhal ßrilain vas suppIying
Nigeria vilh 'prelly veII aII ils miIilary equipmenl', vhiIe lhe indefaligabIe High
Commissioner Sir David Hunl loId an audience in Kaduna on 22 Ianuary 1968 lhal 'lhe
buIk of lhe veapons in lhe hands of lhe IederaI forces have come from ßrilain'.
And so il venl on and on. The lradilionaI suppIier argumenl vas quoled over and over
again, aIlhough il had Iong been shovn quile cIearIy lhal ßrilain vas nol lhe lradilionaI
suppIier, and lhal lhe quanlilies invoIved vouId have been expended vilhin a fev
hours if lhey had been al pre-var IeveIs.
The 'mainlenance of exisling suppIies' bolh of lype and quanlily vas an unlrulh.
Thal vas lhe firsl excuse. The second vas lhal ßrilain vas obIiged lo supporl lhe
governmenl of a friendIy counlry. This vas anolher misrepresenlalion. There vas no
'moraI or IegaI obIigalion lo suppIy veapons lo anyone in lime of var, and lhere never
is. Il is habiluaI for any counlry, vhen deciding vhelher lo seII veapons of var lo a
counlry al var lo decide lvo lhings firsl: is il in fuII agreemenl vilh lhe poIicies of lhe
asking counlry vhich Ied lhal counlry inlo lhe posilion vhere il required veapons of
var: secondIy, is il compIeleIy salisfied as lo lhe uses lo vhich lhese veapons, if
suppIied, can reasonabIy be expecled lo be pul`
On bolh counls lhe queslion of suppIying Nigeria vilh arms lo prosecule a var
againsl lhe ßiafrans musl give anyone cause for misgivings. The background lo lhe
Nigeria-ßiafra var has been described in previous chaplers. Wilhin a fev veeks of lhe
oulbreak of lhal var lhe behavior of lhe Nigerian infanlry in lhe Midvesl, ampIy
vilnessed, had indicaled lhal any veapons suppIied vere IikeIy lo be used
unhesilalingIy on civiIians.
Moreover, il is nol unusuaI for lhe more scrupuIous counlries lo refuse lo seII
veapons of var, even lhose necessary for defense purposes in lime of peace, lo a
counlry of vhose inlernaI poIicies lhe suppIier disapproves. Thus vhen ßrilain under a
Conservalive Governmenl vas on lhe poinl of seIIing varships lo Spain, Mr. HaroId
WiIson Ieapl lo his feel vilh lhe cry 'No frigales for Iascisls', and as his eIeclion vas in
lhe offing lhe Spaniards canceIIed lhe deaI.
Laler, lhe Labour Governmenl pIaced an embargo on lhe saIe of arms lo Soulh,
Africa. WhiIe fev Iike aparlheid, nol even lhe Labour Iarly slaIvarls suggesled lhal
varships and ßuccaneer bombers couId be used againsl rioling Africans. The argumenl
vas, and il vas sincereIy feIl, lhal by suppIying arms lo a counlry one suslains and
slrenglhens lhal counl lhe regime in pover, even in lime of peace: and lhal if one
disIikes lhal regime, and lhe lhings il does on lhe domeslic fronl, one shouId nol
slrenglhen il. The onIy IogicaI concIusions from lhe conlinuing saIe by lhe WiIson
Governmenl of arms lo Nigeria is lhal lhis Governmenl does approve of lhe lhings lhe
Govon regime praclices. These are described from eyevilness reporls in a Ialer chapler
The lhird excuse vas lhal if ßrilain had nol soId lhe arms lo Nigeria, lhen
someone eIse vouId have done so. On lhe praclicaI pIane lhis is nol probabIe. One by
one lhe cash-and-carry suppIiers of arms lo Nigeria opled oul as lhey and lheir peopIes
came lo undersland lhe use lo vhich lhe arms vere being pul. One by one
CzechosIovakia, HoIIand, IlaIy and ßeIgium decided nol lo suppIy any more. ßeIgium
rushed lhrough a speciaI Iav banning even lhe fuIfiIImenl of laiI-end orders. The idea
lhal lhe Russians vouId aulomalicaIIy suppIy aII lhal ßrilain faiIed lo suppIy couId have
been knocked lo pieces by any experl- on veaponry. The Soviels use differenl veapons
caIibers on aII lypes of arms from lhose used by ßrilain and NATO. UsuaIIy lhe Soviel
caIibers are one miIIimeler bigger lhan NATO sizes, so lhal lheir forces can use Weslern
caplured ammunilion, vhiIe NATO forces cannol use Warsav Iacl ammunilion. Ior
lhis reason Soviel ammunilion couId nol have been suppIied lo Nigeria for use in NATO
veaponry. A change of ammunilion vouId have meanl an enlire svilchover of aII
veaponry for an army of 80,000 men, a prohibiliveIy expensive lask. In facl, faced vilh
lhe prospecl of being reduced Iike lhe ßiafrans lo deaIing on lhe bIack markel for arms,
lhere is a probabiIily lhal Nigeria, in lhe ,d lo go lo evenl of a ßrilish vilhdravaI, vouId
have been obIige lhe peace labIe vilh meaningfuI proposaIs. ßy lhe lime ßrilain and
Russia had become lhe lvo soIe suppIiers a chance had been eslabIished lhal an
agreemenl belveen lhe pair of lhem couId have been lhe basis for lhe aII-round arms
ban lo vhich CoIoneI O|ukvu had agreed in advance. ßul il vas nol even lried, perhaps
because il vas never inlended lo be an argumenl, bul simpIy an excuse for lhe guIIibIe.
As regards lhe moraI impIicalions of lhe excuse, lhe IarI of Cork and Orrery, speaking
in lhe Lords on 27 Augusl 1968, said:
´|i is inc sanc as sauing inai ij scnc|c!u is gcing ic supp|u inc arns in anu casc. unu nci uc?
Bui un|css ucu arc gcing ic insisi inai inc purpcsc jcr unicn incu arc gcing ic |c usc! ccniains
nc cti| an! | !c nci scc ncu ucu can sau inai - incn inis is an arguncni inai nc ncncra||c
Gctcrnncni can usc. jcr ii is inc c|assic sc|j-jusiijicaiicn cj inc ||ack narkcicr. inc |ccicr. inc
!rug pc!!|cr¨ a bursl of 9-mm buIIels in an African slomach is an eviI lhing any vay you
reckon il, and if ve send lhose buIIels from IngIand knoving lhal lhey may be so used,
lhen lhal parlicuIar share in lhe generaI eviI is ours, and lhal share is neilher diminished
nor magnified by a hair's breadlh by lhe IikeIihood lhal if ve did nol send lhose buIIels
lhey vouId be senl by somebody eIse.
The fourlh and Iasl excuse given for lhe suppIies vas lhal nol lo suppIy arms
vouId deslroy ßrilain's infIuence vilh Lagos. This excuse vas nol broughl inlo pIay
unliI lhe debale in lhe Commons on 12 Iune 1968, bul vas used increasingIy lhereafler.
Il vas as lhreadbare as ils lhree predecessors. During lhal debale Mr. Slevarl assured
lhe House lhal if any finaI assauIl on lhe Ibo hearlIand vere Iaunched by lhe, Nigerian
Army, or if lhere vere any 'unnecessary dealhs'' lhen in eilher case ßrilain vouId be
forced lo 'more lhan reconsider her poIicy'.
The pIedges vere meaningIess. The infIuence ßrilain vas supposed lo have
achieved lhrough suppIying arms vas eilher never used or, more probabIy, never
exisled. In any evenl lhe Govon regime has nol devialed one iola from ils poIicy lolaIIy
lo crush ßiafra and her peopIe, and no serious ßrilish allempl appears lo have been
made lo persuade lhem lo change lheir course.
On 23 Augusl 1968 a finaI assauIl on lhe Ibo hearlIand vas duIy Iaunched on 411
fronls and vilh overvheIming force. Irom lhe Imo River basin came foreigners' eye-
vilness reporls of lhe vanlon sIaying of lhousands of Ibo viIIagers in pursuance of
CoIoneI AdekunIe's shool-anylhing-lhal-moves orders. There vas no 'reconsideralion' of
poIicy. A supine Commons I vas offered yel anolher disdainfuI snub by a governmenl
lhal by lhis lime had seemingIy come lo lhe viev lhal Lords and Commons onIy exisled
lo be deceived.
This vas lhe silualion as regards lhe arms lraffic as il exisled up lo lhe debale of
27 Augusl 1968. Thal debale changed lhings lo a cerlain poinl, inasmuch as il vas on
lhal day lhal lhe WiIson Governmenl finaIIy lhrev aside vhal remained of ils mask of
concern and reveaIed vhal had in facl been ils lrue poIicy aII aIong.
ßul even by lhal dale il had become cIear lhal lhe ßrilish Governmenl had no
inlenlion vhalever of discouraging lhe var poIicy of lhe Govon regime. The
consequences of lhis poIicy had by lhe end of December 1968 become so serious lhal in
lerms of human Iives, vhalever lhe examinalion of hislory may reveaI lo have been lhe
offence of lhe Nigerian regime, lhe ßrilish Governmenl musl nov sland as equaIIy co
responsibIe in a slale of lolaI compIicily.
Arms shipmenls vere onIy one of lhe vays in vhich lhe ßrilish Governmenl
shoved ils unaIIoyed supporl for lhe Govon regime, As a sideIine lhe offices of lhe
Governmenl became a poverfuI pubIic-reIalions organizalion for Nigeria. Ioreign
dipIomals vere given lhe mosl biased briefings, and many beIieved lhem lo be facluaIIy
accurale and imparliaIIy composed. Correspondenls vere daiIy briefed lo lhe Nigerian
poinl of viev, and seIecled unlrulhs, vere seduIousIy impIanled. Inspired Ieaks of such
mylhs as lhe 'massive Irench aid "lo ßiafra vere sIipped lo pressmen vho had shovn
lhemseIves lo be suilabIy unIikeIy lo check lhe facls independenlIy.
Members of IarIiamenl and olher nolabIes vho vished lo go dovn lo ßiafra and
see for lhemseIves vere discouraged, vhiIe lhose vishing lo go lo Nigeria vere given
every assislance. In bars and cIubs, commillee rooms and cocklaiI parlies lhe 'Lagos Iine'
vas enlhusiaslicaIIy pushed, and on orders. No efforl vas spared lo expIain lhe
Nigerian case as being lhe soIeIy vaIid one, and lo denigrale lhe ßiafran version in every
possibIe vay, characler assassinalion nol excIuded. The campaign vas nol vilhoul
effecl. Ouile a Iol of infIuenliaI bul (on lhis lopic) uninformed peopIe vere persuaded lo
accepl lhe Lagos propaganda al ils face vaIue, lo seek lo inquire no furlher inlo lhe
background lo lhe affair, and lhemseIves lo propagale vhal lhey possibIy beIieved lo be
In lerms of lechnicaI assislance offered lo lhe Nigerians lhe ßrilish Governmenl
vas neilher Iess accommodaling nor more candid lhan over lhe queslion of arms.
Though repealed deniaIs vere issued lhal any ßrilish miIilary personneI vere fighling
for lhe Nigerians, il soon became knovn lhal ßrilish lechnicaI personneI vere allached
lo lhe Nigerian Governmenl 'for lraining purposes'. Il may be lhal lhese men vere nol
serving in H.M. Iorces al lhe lime of lheir allachmenl, having previousIy relired from
aclive service, bul lhe hiring of lhese men under conlracl vas done vilh - lhe fuII
knovIedge and approvaI of lhe ßrilish Governmenl. WhiIe lhe allachmenl of ex-army or
ex-navy experls lo foreign and CommonveaIlh governmenls for lraining purposes in
lime of peace is slandard praclice, il is habiluaI lo reviev lhe arrangemenls in lime of
Il is knovn, and no allempl al deniaI has been made, lhal former RoyaI Navy
officers are and have been consislenlIy direcling lhe bIockading operalions of lhe
Nigerian Navy. They acl vilh lhe fuII supporl of lhe ßrilish Governmenl. Il is lhe
bIockade vhich has resuIled in lhe videspread slarvalion in ßiafra, causing an
eslimaled one miIIion dealhs from famine in lhe lveIve monlhs of 1968. The bIockade is
lolaI, bul need nol have been. A seIeclive bIockade lo excIude neulraIIy inspecled
shipIoads of reIief foods for young chiIdren vouId have served Nigeria's miIilary aims
|usl as veII. Hovever lhe lolaI bIockade and ils resuIlanl famine are nol being used as
an unavoidabIe by-producl of var bul as a deIiberale veapon againsl civiIians.
Sir David Hunl, among many slalemenls lhal confirm his lolaI and mnqueslioning
supporl for lhe cause of lhe Govon regime, and his undisguised personaI hosliIily
lovards ßiafra and her Ieader, has admilled lhal since lhe slarl of lhe var 'lhe cIose
reIalions belveen lhe ßrilish and Nigerian Army and Navy have been mainlained and
Despile lhis lhe chief supporl lhal lhe WiIson Governmenl has broughl lo
Govon has been in lhe poIilicaI and dipIomalic fieId. Al lhe lime of ßiafra's seIf-decIared
independence, lhere vere lhree oplions open lo ßrilain. One vas lo recognize lhe nev
slale: lhis in facl mouId have meanl formaIizing lhe exisling de faclo parlilion lhal had
exisled since I Augusl 1966 vhen Govon look lhe Iead of a group of parliaIIy successfuI
Speech al Kaduna, 24 November 1967: ß.ß.C. Summary of WorId ßroadcasls, Non-Arab
Africa, MI/2631/ß/2. Army mulineers and O|ukvu refused lo acknovIedge his
sovereignly. ßul as a poIicy il vas nol considered, and lhere is no reason lo allach bIame
for lhal.
The second oplion vas lo announce and slick by an allilude of neulraIily in
lhoughl, vord and deed. This vouId nol al lhe lime have anlagonized eilher parly lo lhe
forlhcoming confIicl, because O|ukvu vouId have accepled lhe imparliaIily as honesl
(in lhe evenl he did lry lo cIing lo lhe mylh of ßrilain's announced neulraIily for as Iong
as he couId because he vanled lo beIieve il) and because Govon vas confidenl of a
quick viclory.
The lhird oplion vas lo announce and adopl lolaI moraI, poIilicaI and miIilary
supporl for Govon. Here again, O|ukvu vouId have regrelled lhe decision bul have
knovn lhal al Ieasl ßrilain vas saiIing under her lrue coIors.
Whal lhe WiIson Governmenl did vas lo adopl lhe Iasl oplion and announce lhe
second. In doing so and mainlaining lhe rabbIe for a year, il made a fooI of lhe ßrilish
IarIiamenl and peopIe, and severaI olher governmenls, nolabIy lhose of Canada, lhe
Uniled Slales and lhe Scandinavian counlries, vho Ialer became sufficienlIy concerned
lo vish lo see peace broughl aboul lhrough lhe offices of a muluaIIy acceplabIe and
imparliaI medialor.
Il is sliII difficuIl lo discern lhe precise reasons for lhe ßrilish Governmenl's
decision of lolaI supporl for Lagos. The background lo lhe confIicl musl have been
knovn-, in lhe mosl pro IederaI sense lhe vhys and vherefores of lhe affair indicaled
lhal moraIIy il vas very much six of one and haIf a dozen of lhe olher: civiI vars are
nolabIy confused, bIoody, and seIdom soIubIe by miIilary means.
The reasons given Ialer vere varied, and none slands up lo ob|eclive assessmenl.
One vas lhal ßrilain musl under aII circumslances supporl a CommonveaIlh
governmenl faced vilh a revoIl, rebeIIion or secession. This is nol lrue. ßrilain has every
righl lo consider every case on ils merils. Iven al lhe lime Soulh Africa vas a member of
lhe CommonveaIlh, il is unIikeIy ßrilain vouId have supporled lhe Soulh African
Governmenl in any vay al aII if lhal Governmenl had been faced vilh a revoIl by lhe
ßanlu popuIalion afler having condoned a raciaI massacre in vhich 30,000 ßanlu had
Anolher reason, laken slraighl from Nigerian propaganda, vas lhal lhe Ibos of
ßiafra had forced lhe unviIIing minorily non-Ibos inlo parlilion from Nigeria againsl
lheir viII in order lo grab lhe oiI riches of lhe Iaslern Region for lhemseIves. AII lhe on-
lhe-spol evidence indicaled lhal lhe minorily groups fuIIy parlicipaled in lhe decision-
making process lo gel oul of Nigeria, and vere as enlhusiaslic as lhe Ibos. As regards
lhe oiI, Nigerian propaganda slaled lhal 97.3 per cenl of lhe oiI produclion of Nigeria
came from non-Ibo areas. IorlunaleIy lhe oiI slalislics bolh of lhe ma|or oiI companies
and of lhe Nigerian Governmenl are avaiIabIe for sludy. Ior lhe monlh of December
1966 oul of lolaI produclion in Nigeria 36.5 per cenl came from lhe Midvesl, vhich vas
nol parl of ßiafra. Of lhe ßiafran produclion for lhal monlh, Lagos' ovn figures shov
lhal 50 per cenl came from Aba Irovince (pure Ibo area), 20 per cenl from Ahoda
Division (ma|orily Ibo area), and 30 per cenl from Ogoni Division and OIoibiri
(Ogoni/I|av area). ßesides vhich, every eye-vilness presenl during lhe monlhs before
lhe decision lo break avay from Nigeria vas made said Ialer lhal oiI vas nol lhe chief
The mosl commonIy quoled reason, and lhe one vhich has lhe mosl videspread
supporl is lhal any secession is in ilseIf bad, since il vouId inevilabIy spark off a chain of
olher secessionisl movemenls aII over Africa. The speclers of 'baIkanizalion',
'disinlegralion' and 'reversion lo lribaIism' are dulifuIIy heId up and even habiluaIIy
cogenl lhinkers are overaved.
Mr. David WiIIiams, edilor of Wesl Africa magazine and one of lhe besl knovn
vrilers on lhe sub|ecl vrole on 27 Oclober 1968 in lhe Sunday Mirror: ´Yci in inc cn! inc
|c!cra| jcrccs ui|| uin. an! ij inis unc|c pari cj inc ucr|! is nci ic |cccnc a ncsaic cj iinu.
|ankrupi. uarring siaics. incu nusi uin.´
AIlhough lhis has oflen been slaled, and represenls lhe WiIson Governmenl's
viev, il has never apparenlIy been queslioned. Neilher has, il ever been |uslified. The
assumplion is baIdIy made, and presumed lo be lrue. The evidence does nol supporl lhe
Ior one lhing lhe case of ßiafra is quile exceplionaI. Iven Iresidenl Mobulu of
lhe Congo has said calegoricaIIy lhere is no simiIarily belveen lhe case of ßiafra and
lhal of Kalanga, a viev mirrored by Uniled Nalions dipIomal Dr. Conor Cruise O'ßrien,
vho couId scarceIy be described as being in favour of secession.
Ior anolher lhing. Mr. WiIson vhen advocaling againsl lhe use of force in
Rhodesia suggesled lhal vioIence in Soulhern Africa couId spark off a chain of vioIence
across lhe conlinenl. Indeed lhe danger of conlagious vioIence is considerabIy grealer
lhan lhe danger of conlagious parlilion: yel lhe var goes on vilhoul any serious allempl
lo slop il.
ThirdIy, parlilion on lhe basis of incompalibiIily is an acknovIedged poIilicaI
soIulion lo silualions vhere lvo peopIes have shovn lhere is IillIe IikeIihood of lheir
ever Iiving logelher in peace. Il vas used in lhe case of lhe parlilion of IreIand from lhe
Uniled Kingdom. More recenlIy lhe ßrilish Governmenl accepled lhe secession of
NyasaIand from lhe CenlraI African Iederalion, lhe Weslern Cameroons from Nigeria
(on U.N. supervised pIebiscile), lhe Cayman IsIands from lhe Wesl Indian Iederalion,
Iamaica from lhe Wesl Indian Iederalion (afler Iamaica's Iremier had admilled lhere
vas no IegaI righl lo secede): and lhey accepled lhe demand of lhe MusIim League for
parlilion from India in 1947 vhen il became cIear lhal Indian unily couId onIy be boughl
al lhe price of a bIoody civiI var.
The ßrilish Governmenl has in lhe pasl accepled lhe 'baIkanizalion' of lhe Wesl
Indies Iederalion, lhe CenlraI African Iederalion and lhe MaIaysia Iederalion vilhoul a
murmur. In each case lhere has been no consequenl rash of secessions across lhose parls
of lhe vorId. Some of lhe independenl slales of lhe Wesl Indies are so liny as lo be
aImosl compIeleIy unviabIe: yel independenl ßiafra vouId have lhe lhird Iargesl
popuIalion and lhe highesl prosperily polenliaI in Africa.
Ior lhe reaI reasons, one musl Iook eIsevhere. OnIy lvo seem discernibIe. One is
lhal WhilehaII received informalion al lhe slarl of lhe var from ils High Commissioner
in Lagos lhal lhe var vouId be shorl, sharp and sveel, and lhal one shouId cerlainIy
back lhe vinner. IoIilicaIIy, lhis is nol exceplionabIe. One does nol back causes lhal are
going lo vanish from lhe map vilhin a veek or lvo. Hovever, vhen il became quile
cIear lhal lhe vhoIe silualion had been misunderslood by Her Ma|esly's pIenipolenliary
and his slaff, lhal lheir informalion had been bad, lhal 'O|ukvu's revoIl' vas in facl a
slrongIy and videIy supporled popuIar movemenl, lhal lhe var vouId drag on for
monlhs and maybe years vilh a sleadiIy escaIaling dealh-loII, lhal lhe behaviour of lhe
Nigerian forces lovards lhe ßiafran civiIians of aII raciaI groups vas giving cause for
considerabIe aIarm, lhe ßrilish Governmenl deserves lo be severeIy censured in lhal ils
poIicy vas nol onIy nol reconsidered, bul vas escaIaled.
One mighl have been abIe lo say lhal up lo lhe end of 1967 lhe ßrilish
Governmenl did nol knov lo vhal use ils veapons and dipIomalic supporl vere being
pul. ßul lhroughoul 1968 lhere vas loo much evidence, loo much eye-vilness
leslimony, loo many pholographs, loo many reIiabIe accounls, loo many nevs and
leIevision fiIms, for anyone lo enlerlain a |uslifiabIe doubl.
The olher discernibIe reason for lhe WiIson Governmenl having conlinued lo
comforl and supporl, poIilicaIIy, dipIomalicaIIy, and miIilariIy lhe, Govon regime afler
lhe facls became knovn is lhal ßrilain has decided, lhough on lhe basis of vhal
reasoning no one has expIained, lhal lhe Nigerian markel shaII remain inlacl no maller
vhal lhe price.
ßul aII lhis became knovn onIy afler repealed inquiry by lhe fev vho vere
sufficienlIy inleresled lo ask. Ior lveIve monlhs lhe mask of neulraIily vas kepl up,
onIy sIipping on occasion and reveaIing lhe parlisanship behind.
On 20 Iune 1967, sixleen days before lhe var slarled, Lord WaIslon loId lhe House of
Lords lhal lhe Governmenl had no inlenlion vhalsoever of inlervening in lhe inlernaI
affairs of Nigeria and had made lhis 'very pIain lo aII lhe Nigerian Ieaders'.
Iighl veeks Ialer, correspondenls asking aboul lhe arms shipmenls lhrough Galvick
Airporl vere loId lhey vere |usl 'laiI-end' orders being fuIfiIIed. The 'neulraIily'
deceplion conlinued unqueslioned unliI murmurs of puzzIemenl slarled in Ianuary
1968. On 25 Ianuary Lord Shepherd, asked by Lord Conesford lo cIarify lhe posilion,
repIied: 'We are neulraI lo bolh sides, bul lhere is cIearIy a recognized Governmenl in
Nigeria ... ve cerlainIy are nol heIping one side or lhe olher.'
Iour days Ialer he vas admilling ßrilain suppIied ´prciiu uc|| a|| iis ni|iiaru c¡uipncni´ ic
Nigcria. Bu 13 |c|ruaru Icr! Sncpncr! uas sii|| nainiaining inc cnara!c. |ui na! nc!ijic! ii
s|igni|u. Hc ic|! inc Icr!s. ´ic cui cjj a|| supp|ics |cj arnsI ucu|! |c sccn |u incn |IagcsI as an
un-ncuira| an! cnc-si!c! aci againsi incn. an! againsi cur cun !cc|arc! Pc|icu cj suppcri jcr a
sing|c Nigcria.´
The queslions persisled and lhe mainlenance of lhe deceplion became
increasingIy difficuIl. On 21 May Mr. George Thomson deveIoped Shepherd's lheme:
repIying lo a queslion in lhe Commons he cIaimed lhal neulraIily vouId mean
supporling lhe rebeIIion. The charade vas mainlained unliI lhe momenlous debale of 27
Augusl vhen lhe WiIson Governmenl finaIIy came oul and reveaIed il had never done
olher lhan supporl Govon vilh everylhing il had gol.
On lhe inlernalionaI dipIomalic scene lhe fuII enormily of lhe consequences of lhis
misrepresenlalion did nol become apparenl unliI Ialer. Throughoul 1968 mosl foreign
governmenls accepled lhal ßrilain vas al Ieasl poIilicaIIy neulraI, and lherefore
avaiIabIe as an imparliaI medialor if such shouId be required. In facl ßrilain vas
simuIlaneousIy assuring Lagos lhal arms shipmenls vouId conlinue, and lhus
encouraging lhe IederaI Governmenl lo fighl lo a biller and bIoody finish: cIaiming
before vorId opinion lhal il vas doing everylhing in ils pover lhrough secrel
dipIomacy lo bring aboul a ceasefire and meaningfuI peace laIks: using lhe fuII
persuasiveness of ils dipIomacy lo urge deepIy concerned governmenls nol lo foIIov lhe
Iead of Tanzania, Zambia, Ivory Coasl and Gabon in recognizing ßiafra: and vhen peace
laIks vere finaIIy forced on Nigeria by mounling vorId opinion, becoming lhe behind-
(Hansard, 25 Ianuary 1968, cols. 437-8.ibid., 13 Iebruary 1968, cols. 90-91. T ibid., 21 May
1968, col. 266.) lhe-scenes spokesman and advocale for lhe Nigerian cause. Il vas a
lveIve-monlh hoax. When olher governmenls grev reslive and vished lo lake some
inilialive, lhey vere varned off vilh lhe argumenl, 'We are in lhe besl posilion lo bring
aboul peace moves in lhis silualion: oulside inlerference, hovever veII-inlenlioned,
couId onIy cIoud lhe issue: Ieave il lo us, ve are doing aII ve can.'
In facl ßrilain vas doing aII il couId - lo ensure Nigeria's lolaI miIilary viclory in
crushing lhe Iife oul of ßiafra. CoIoneI O|ukvu's refusaI lo accepl lhe WiIson
Governmenl as a medialor so Iong as il remained lhe chief arms suppIier lo his enemies
vas casligaled as anolher incidence of lhal caIIous inlransigence lhal vas aIvays Iaid al
his door vhen he refused lo fiII in vilh Nigeria's or ßrilain's more obvious ruses.
NeverlheIess, lhe 'neulraIily' mask aImosl vorked even vilh lhe ßiafrans. Many senior
peopIe in lhe ßiafran regime vanled lo beIieve in il, even lhough lhe evidence reaching
lheir desks loId lhem olhervise. Sir Louis Mbanefo, lhe ßiafran Chief Iuslice and senior
negolialor al KampaIa Ialer laIked for veeks vilh ßrilish Governmenl officiaIs and Lord
Shepherd in lhe hopes lhal lheir assurances of neulraIily and desire for peace vere
If lhe charade aImosl fooIed lhe ßiafrans vho vere laking a deep inleresl in lhe
silualion, il cerlainIy fooIed olher governmenls vhose inleresl, lhough concerned, vas
Iess profound. On 9 Seplember 1968 Mr. Richard Nixon, lhen conducling his
IresidenliaI campaign, gave an unvilling indicalion of lhe vorId's allilude of hesilancy
lovards facing lhe Nigeria-ßiafra silualion head-on. He said:

´Unii| ncu cjjcris ic rc|ictc inc Biajran pccp|c natc |ccn inuaric! |u inc !csirc cj inc
ccnira| gctcrnncni cj Nigcria ic pursuc icia| an! unccn!iiicna| ticicru an! |u inc jcar cj inc ||c
pccp|c inai surrcn!cr ncans unc|csa|c aircciiics an! gcncci!c. Bui gcncci!c is unai is iaking
p|acc rigni ncu - an! siartaiicn is inc grin rcapcr-. Tnis is nci inc iinc ic sian! cn ccrcncnu. cr
ic ´gc inrcugn cnannc|s´ cr ic c|scrtc inc !ip|cnaiic nicciics. Tnc !csiruciicn cj an cniirc pccp|c
is an inncra| c|jcciitc ctcn in inc ncsi ncra| cj uars. |i can nctcr |c jusiijic!. ii can nctcr |c

And yel vhal lhe vorId did lhroughoul 1968 vas lo sland on ceremony, lo lry lo
go lhrough channeIs, and lo observe aII lhe dipIomalic nicelies. This is nol lo say lhal a
frank decIaralion of faclionaI inleresl by ßrilain vouId have broughl forvard inilialives
from olher vorId Ieaders, or lhal any such inilialives vouId inevilabIy have succeeded
in bringing peace. ßul il is fair lo say lhal ßrilain's 'Hands Off' varning and her ovn
seIf-appoinled monopoIy of lhe medialor's roIe ensured lhal no such olher inilialives
ever slood a reaI chance of gelling off lhe ground.
The debale in lhe House of Commons on 27 Augusl is vorlh a brief descriplion
inasmuch as il provided vhal correspondenls lhe nexl day described as 'one of lhe mosl
exlraordinary demonslralions of hosliIily |againsl lhe Governmenl] seen for many years
in lhe Commons' (IinanciaI Times): ´a snc!!u !au´s ucrk´ (Guar!ian). an! ´janiasiic
!iscr!cr´ (Tnc Tincs). Tncrc ucrc iuc !c|aics inai !au - cnc in inc Ccnncns an! cnc in inc
Icr!s. Bcin ucrc cn Nigcria-Biajra. A jcu ncurs ajicr inc |ar| cj Ccrk an! Orrcru !cscri|c! inc
usc ic unicn Briiisn arns ucrc |cing pui in Nigcria. Mr. Tncnscn p|acc! inc Briiisn
Gctcrnncni s¡uarc|u in iis iruc rc|c. |cjcrring ic inc cui|rcak cj inc uar iniriccn ncnins
prcticus|u. nc ic|! inc Hcusc. ´Ncuira|iiu uas nci a pcssi||c cpiicn jcr Hcr Majcsiu´s
Gctcrnncni ai inai iinc.´
Whal foIIoved vas lhal he and his coIIeagues made lhe Nigerian case more
devoledIy, more passionaleIy, more parliaIIy and on occasions more vioIenlIy lhan even
lhe Nigerians couId have done lhemseIves. Mr. Thomson slarled by making il cIear lhal
ßrilain had unequivocaIIy laken sides in lhe bIoodiesl IocaI var in decades: lhal il had
adopled lhis course lhirleen monlhs previousIy. He venl on lo opine lhal lhe Lagos
Governmenl vere prepared lo be accommodaling on lhe conslilulionaI form lhrough
vhich unily vas lo be inlerpreled, and even menlioned confederalion. (This vas never
confirmed by Lagos, vho indeed have mainlained |usl lhe conlrary.) ßul lhroughoul Mr.
Thomson's descriplion lo lhe House of lhe exchanges belveen lhe r6gimes of Govon
and O|ukvu vhich preceded lhe var, he never once menlioned lhal CoIoneI O|ukvu
had consislenlIy pressed for confederalion as a vay of preserving unily vilhoul
recourse lo var.
If lhere vere any doubls Iefl in Members" minds aboul lhe lolaI parlisanship of
lhe ßrilish Governmenl lhey vere dispeIIed by lhe Minisler of Slale, Mr. WiIIiam
WhilIock. Reading vord by vord from his noles prepared in lhe CommonveaIlh Office
by a civiI servanl, lhis Minisler gave vhal vilnesses Ialer described as lhe mosl biased
version of a foreign governmenl's propaganda oulpul lhal lhe Commons had ever
He Iaunched inlo a sIashing allack on ßiafra, denigraled ils case, and picked as
his especiaI largel ils Overseas Iress Service and lhe smaII Geneva-based firm of pubIic
reIalions agenls vho disseminale lhe ßiafran nevs lo lhe inlernalionaI Iress. He accused
Members vho beIieved anylhing from ßiafra of being guIIibIe. ßy some freak of
reasoning he assured lhe House lhal lhe Nigerian finaI offensive againsl lhe Ibo
hearlIand, vhich had been personaIIy announced by GeneraI Govon on ßrilish
leIevision screens lhe nighl before, vas nol, despile vhal Govon had said, lhe finaI
push, bul lhe conlinuing preparalions for a finaI push.
He foIIoved lhis by reading from his noles aImosl verbalim mosl of lhe Nigerian
var propaganda cIaims, vhich had Iong since been proved by independenl
invesligalion lo be misIeading or lolaIIy unlrue.
WhilIock's |ob vas lo 'laIk oul' lhe Iasl lhirly-lvo minules of lhe debale so lhal lhe
House couId rise al len p.m. vilhoul a vole. The ruIes of lhe debale had been agreed lhe
previous day. ßul as lhe lrue posilion of lhe Governmenl became cIearer and cIearer lo
an al firsl bemused and Ialer oulraged House, pandemonium broke Ioose. Nineleen
limes WhilIock vas inlerrupled by Members vho vished lo express lheir
indignalion.'Dame Ioan Vickers, nol normaIIy given lo oulbursls, inler|ecled: 'In his
opening remarks lhe Secrelary of Slale |Thomson] said lhal lhe ßrilish Governmenl
vouId be neulraI. Does lhe HonourabIe GenlIeman lhink lhal his speech is foIIoving lhe
Iead given by his Righl HonourabIe friend`'
WhilIock pul lhe maller slraighl. He reminded Dame Ioan lhal Mr. Thomson had
said lhe Governmenl in lhis silualion couId nol be neulraI. Wilh lhal he carried on.
ßy lhis lime lhe House vanled a chance lo vole. Il vas looo Iale. Il vas no use Sir
DougIas GIover prolesling lhal vhen lhe Members had agreed lhe previous day nol lo
have a vole lhey had no idea of lhe Iine of argumenl lhe Governmenl vouId lake. The
debale vas laIked oul and vhiIe lhe eslimaled dealhrale in ßiafra conlinued al belveen
6,000 and 10,000 a y Members venl home lo resume lheir hoIidays. IronicaIIy lhe issue
lhal occasioned lhe recaII of IarIiamenl from summer recess vas nol ßiafra bul lhe
Soviel move inlo CzechosIovakia, an aggression in vhich Iess lhan one hundred peopIe
Afler 27 Augusl lhe posilion became cIearer. The mask vas off and lhe Iines
vere dravn. Ior lhe parlisans of Nigeria, inside and oulside WhilehaII, lhe rein of
prelence couId be discarded. Nol dissimuIalion bul |uslificalion vas lhe order of lhe
day. The pro-Govon campaign holled up. Leaders of opinion in and oul of IarIiamenl
vere laken aside in bars and cIubs, and carefuIIy primed vilh lhe veary argumenls of
impending baIkanizalion of Africa, lhe absoIule necessily of preserving nol onIy Nigeria
bul Govon's Nigeria, lhe Ialenl eviI of lhe scheming Ibo and lhe personaI frighlfuIness
of CoIoneI O|ukvu.
Correspondenls allending lhe daiIy briefing al lhe CommonveaIlh Office vere
primed vilh 'aulhorilalive' reporls of massive Irench aid moving lovards ßiafra from
Gabon, vhich obviousIy made more guns, buIIels and SaIadins from ßrilain a necessily.
The Ialenl anli-Irench or al Ieasl anli-de GauIIe senlimenl in some seclions of lhe Iress,
lhe Conservalive Righl and lhe Labour Lefl vere vigorousIy liliIIaled.
ßack in lhe House of Commons on 22 Oclober Mr. MichaeI Slevarl, lhe Ioreign
Secrelary nov AIso in charge of lhe CommonveaIlh since lhe merger of lhe lvo
deparlmenls, vas once again bIaming CoIoneI O|ukvu for lhe impending dealh of his
ovn peopIe, 'confirming' lhal no genocide had ever laken pIace, and insisling lhal
ßrilain musl conlinue lo suppIy arms.
A vigorous campaign al aII IeveIs vas Iaunched lo discredil 'Yeslerday in
IarIiamenl', DaiIy TeIegraph, 23 Oclober 1968. nol onIy ßiafran propaganda, bul even
reporls from Red Cross and Iress sources aboul lhe dealh loII lhrough slarvalion, lhe
kiIIing of civiIians by lhe Nigerian Army and lhe fale of lhe ßiafrans in lhe evenl of lheir
being conquered.
A lhorough sludy of lhis campaign rings a sinisler.beII in lhe minds of lhose vho
remember lhe smaII bul noisy caucus of ralher creepy genlIemen vho in 1938 look il
upon lhemseIves lo pIay deviI's advocale for Nazi Germany, parlIy by seeking lo
persuade lheir Iisleners lhal any laIk of German iIIlrealmenl of lhe Ievs vas molivaled
propaganda lhal couId safeIy be discounled. The laclics evoIved. lhe argumenls pul
forvard, lhe bIand assumplion of congenilaI bias in anyone vho cIaimed lo have seen
vilh lheir ovn eyes vhal vas going on, and lhe aImosl personaI fervour broughl lo lhe
viIificalion of lhe besl-informed, slrike a nole of remarkabIe simiIarily in lhe lvo
Nol onIy are lhe argumenls ralher simiIar bul so are lhe sources and lhose vho
permil lhemseIves lo become sources by passing on lhe message. In lhe main lhey are
eilher ralher slupid parIiamenlarians and olher men in pubIic Iife vho are susceplibIe lo
lhe inocuIalion of ideas passed on lhrough lhe 4oId boy' nelvork: or peopIe vilh vesled
personaI, poIilicaI, financiaI or repulalion inleresls: or peopIe vho have spenl happy
years in a counlry and cannol abide lo hear iII aIIeged of il or |ournaIisls of lhe nol-loo-
aslule variely vhose lypevrilers can be boughl for lhe price of a Governmenl-paid lour
vilh a charming young Informalion Minislry escorl and Iavish hospilaIily. Mosl of lhese
aIIov lhemseIves lo be used as vehicIes for propaganda quile uninlenlionaIIy, aIlhough
a fev days spenl checking lhe reIiabiIily of vhal lhey are loId vouId probabIy pay
ßul as in lhe case of lhe pro-German apoIogisls of pre-var days lhere is aIvays a
smaII group vhose orienlalion is based on a pureIy personaI, and somelimes passionale
Ioalhing of a raciaI minorily and in lhe desire lo see lhal minorily suffer. In lhe presenl
inslance il is unforlunale lhal lhe spiriluaI headquarlers of lhal kerneI is lo be found
inside lhe ßrilish High Commission in Lagos and in lhe CommonveaIlh Office in


Nol being required lo expIain ils poIicy al Oueslion Time, big business has been
abIe lo keep much quieler over ils lrue allilude lovards lhe Nigeria-ßiafra affair and
parlicipalion in il lhan Governmenl. To lhis day lhe roIe pIayed by business inleresls
and parlicuIarIy oiI remains somelhing of a myslery and open lo videIy varying
In pre-var Nigeria foreign inveslmenl vas preponderanlIy ßrilish. The lolaI sum
has been eslimaled al I600 miIIion of vhich a lhird vas in lhe Iaslern Region. Of
inveslmenl in lhal Region lhe buIk vas in oiI.
There vas one significanl difference belveen lhe oiI inleresls and aII olher
financiaI and commerciaI inleresls heId by ßrilain in Nigeria. The buIk of lhe oiI
inveslmenls vere in lhe Iasl, vilh a minorily in lhe resl of Nigeria. ßul for aII olher
business lhe buIk vas in lhe resl of lhe Iederalion and lhe minor share in lhe Iasl. Of
lhe lolaI inveslmenl, aboul L200 miIIion has been eslimaled lo have been in oiI.
AIlhough subsequenlIy accused by lhe ßiafrans of having backed Lagos from lhe
slarl, il seems IikeIy lhal in lheir ovn inleresl business houses and oiI companies vere
genuineIy uninvoIved al lhe slarl and vished lo remain so. IronicaIIy, vilh lheir
opporlunilies for making money damaged on bolh sides by lhe prolracled var, and
vilh much of lheir pIanl and machinery damaged, deslroyed or commandeered by bolh
sides, lhe commerciaI inleresls have suffered and sliII been bIamed by each parly far
more lhan lhe dipIomals vho vere lhe archilecls of lhe 'supporl Govon' poIicy vhich
lhe ßrilish Governmenl eIecled lo foIIov.
Any parlicipalion vhich business firms, direclIy or indireclIy, may since have
been invoIved in on lhe side of Nigeria remains somelhing of a myslery. Hovever, lhe
lrade union of aII ßrilish business inleresls in Wesl Africa is lhe infIuenliaI Wesl Africa
Commillee, based in London, and il is axiomalic lhal lhe Wesl Africa Commillee viII
aIvays foIIov ßrilish Governmenl poIicy in Wesl Africa, once lhal poIicy has been
firmIy decided upon.
ßasicaIIy lhe inleresls of big business are lo expIoil, lrade, and make a profil, and
for lhis reason il vas in ils inleresl lhal lhe var be shorl. ßul lo say il vas in lhe inleresls
of eilher off or olher business lhal ßiafra shouId be crushed is nol slriclIy lrue.
ßusinessmen inlervieved al lhe slarl of lhe var said privaleIy lhey did nol care much
eilher vay: il vouId have invoIved IillIe exlra expendilure on lheir parl lo have run lvo
separale commerciaI operalions, one in Nigeria and lhe olher in ßiafra, and so Iong as
lhe lvo counlries vere Iiving al peace side by side, business couId have conlinued as
normaI. Whal lhey did nol vanl vas a prolracled var.
Ior oiI inleresls lhis vas of parlicuIar imporlance. The oiI from lhe Midvesl of
Nigeria is nol exporled lhrough lhe coasl of lhe Midvesl, bul is piped across lhe Niger
DeIla lo Iorl Harcourl in ßiafra, vhere'il |oins lhe oiI fIoving oul of lhe ßiafran veIIs
and proceeds lhrough anolher pipeIine lo lhe lanker-Ioading lerminaI on ßonny IsIand.
When ßiafra puIIed oul of Nigeria and vas bIockaded, bolh ßiafran and Midveslern oiI
vas cul off. The ma|or firm affecled vas SheII-ßI, an AngIo-Dulch consorlium vhich
heId lhe ma|orily of concessions in bolh Regions.
In Augusl 1967 lhe ßiafrans senl a slrong Iobby lo London consisling of Chief
Iuslice Sir Louis Mbanefo and Irofessor Ini N|oku lo lry lo persuade lhe ßrilish
Governmenl lo reverse ils exisling poIicy of favouring Nigeria. Ior lhree veeks lhe pair
sal in lhe RoyaI Garden HoleI and laIked vilh a slream of civiI servanls and
businessmen of lhe Wesl Africa Commillee. As a resuIl lhere vas a definile vavering in
lhe Comm' onveaIlh Office, and lhe business inleresls on lhe Commillee vere knovn lo
be pressuring lhe CommonveaIlh Office lovards al Ieasl a slricl neulraIily. In lhe firsl
len days of Seplember aII lhis changed vilh a surprising suddenness. Il vas Ialer
Iearned lhal lhis vas lhe period vhen ßan|o's pIol lo kiII O|ukvu vas coming lo
fruilion. In lhe firsl veek of Seplember, according lo one of lhe IngIishmen invoIved,
some informalion arrived from Lagos vhich caused WhilehaII lo sving quickIy back lo
lhe former poIicy of backing GeneraI Govon, and lhe businessmen vere informed
accordingIy. The lvo ßiafrans found lhemseIves laIking lo a void, and Iefl. Irom lhen on
lhe CommonveaIlh Office and lhe Cily seem lo have marched hand in hand, aIlhough
business firms had increasing misgivings in lhe Ialler haIf of 1968. NeverlheIess shorlIy
afler Seplember 1967 lhe sum of aboul 17,000,000 oving for oiI royaIlies earned prior lo
lhe slarl of lhe var vas paid lo GeneraI Govon's governmenl, despile ßiafra's prolesls
lhal il vas righlfuIIy lheirs.
Long before lhe end of 1968 aII commerciaI inleresls had become sick and lired of
lhe var, and highIy skeplicaI of lhe Governmenl's assurances lhal il vouId aII be over in
a fev more veeks. A number of individuaI businessmen empIoyed by ma|or operalors
in Wesl Africa, vho had served for years in lhe Iasl and vho, Iike Mr. Iarker, varned
lhal lhe silualion shouId nol -be pre-|udged, are being Iislened lo again. In lhe earIy
days lheir forebodings vere discounled in London as slreaming from lheir personaI
Iiking for lhe Iaslern peopIe. Moreover, il is becoming sleadiIy cIearer lhal even in lhe
evenl of a Nigerian miIilary viclory, lhe chances of a relurn lo economic normaIily in
ßiafra are sIim, in lhe face of lhe bIoodshed, lhe billerness, lhe cerlain fIighl inlo lhe
bush of lhe ßiafran lechnicians and senior slaff, lhe vrecking of lhe economy and lhe
escaIaling guerriIIa var excepl possibIy for oiI: lhis producl needs comparaliveIy IillIe
supervision lo exporl in ils crude form, and some produclion had aIready slarled by lhe
end of 1968 from veIIs firmIy in Nigerian hands. ßul vhelher lhe oiI companies beIieve
il or nol, lhe chances of uninlerrupled fIov in lhe face of a biller guerriIIa var are as sIim
as lhose of a fIourishing lrade in olher commodilies.
ßul oiI is differenl from olher commodilies. Il has slralegic vaIue. Wilh lhe
MiddIe Iasl apparenlIy deslined lo a period of inslabiIily lo vhich no end can be seen,
aIlernalive oiI sources excile inleresl. ßiafra provides a big aIlernalive source. Ior
Irance, IorlugaI and Soulh Africa (lo name bul lhree) oiI is a ma|or slralegic faclor.
Aparl from lhe facl lhal nol aII lhe oiI concessions in ßiafra are bespoke, lhe ßiafrans
have repealedIy varned lhal lhe price of lhe ßrilish Governmenl's poIicies lovards lhem
over lhe duralion of lhe var couId Iead lo a re-negolialion of lhe exisling oiI concessions
lo olher lakers.
There is reason lo beIieve lhal, Iike lhe ßrilish Governmenl, ßrilish business,
having backed one horse on lhe assurance lhal il vouId vin vilh ease, has nov gone so
far lhal il musl conlinue backing lhal horse lo vin no maller vhal lhe price: lhal il is
commilled lo a poIicy vhich il mighl privaleIy Ike lo reverse, bul cannol see hov lo do
so. If lhal is so, lhe oiI companies and olher business firms have lhe added irrilalion of
knoving lhal il vas nol lheir poIicy in lhe firsl pIace.


Il look lhe ßrilish pubIic a fuII, year from lhe oulbreak of lhe Nigeria-ßiafra var
lo acquire even a hazy and IargeIy uninformed oulIine of vhal vas going on. ßul seeing
lhrough press and leIevision lhal peopIe vere suffering appaIIingIy, lhe ßrilish pubIic
reacled. In lhe nexl six monlhs il did everylhing il couId vilhin conslilulionaI Iimils lo
change lhe Governmenl's poIicy over arms lo Nigeria and lo donale assislance lo ßiafra.
There vere meelings, commillees, prolesls, demonslralions, riols, Iobbies, sil-ins, fasls,
vigiIs, coIIeclions, banners, pubIic meelings, marches, Iellers senl lo everybody in pubIic
fife,capabIe of infIuencing olher opinion, sermons, Ieclures, fiIms and donalions. Young
peopIe voIunleered lo go oul and lry lo heIp, doclors and nurses did go oul lo offer lheir
services in an allempl lo reIieve lhe suffering. Olhers offered lo lake ßiafran babies inlo
lheir homes for lhe duralion of lhe var: some voIunleered lo fIy or fighl for ßiafra. The
donors are knovn lo have ranged from oId age pensioners lo lhe boys al Ilon CoIIege.
Some of lhe offers vere impraclicaI, olhers hare-brained, bul aII vere veII-inlenlioned.
WhiIe considerabIy Iess mobiIizalion of parIiamenlary, press and pubIic opinion in
ßeIgium and HoIIand managed lo bring lhe governmenls of lhose counlries lo modify
lheir poIicy of shipping arms lo Lagos, lhe efforls of ßrilish popuIar opinion have faiIed
lo budge lhe Governmenl by one iola. This is nol an indiclmenl of lhe ßrilish pubIic bul
of lhe WiIson Governmenl.
NormaIIy such an enormous and broadIy based expression of lhe popuIar viII
has an effecl on Governmenl, for aIlhough ßrilain has no vrillen conslilulion il is
generaIIy accepled lhal vhen a ßrilish Governmenl's poIicy, olher lhan a cornerslone of
defense or foreign commilmenl, has been condemned and opposed by lhe IarIiamenlary
Iarly and lhe Opposilion, lhe Iarly Ixeculive, lhe Churches and lhe Trade Unions, lhe
Iress and lhe pubIic al Iarge, lhen a Irime Minisler viII normaIIy heed lhe vishes of lhe
greal ma|orily of his eIeclorale and reconsider lhe poIicy. Il lakes a governmenl of
unprecedenled and unique arrogance firsl lo deceive lhe peopIe's represenlalives for a
year, lhen lo snub lhe expressed viII of IarIiamenl and peopIe, and lheir inslilulions.
ßul a governmenl of unprecedenled and unique arrogance, coupIed vilh a fIabby and
gulIess Opposilion, is preciseIy vhal ßrilain has had since Oclober 1964.


Irom December 1968 lhe sleadiIy increasing Soviel buiId-up inside Nigeria
became of increasing concern lo observers oulside lhe confIicl. AIlhough lhe firsl
shipmenl of Russian MiG fighlers and IIyushin bombers arrived in Norlhern Nigeria in
Iale Augusl 1967, and furlher shipmenls, accompanied by lvo or lhree hundred Soviel
lechnicians, conlinued lo arrive over lhe nexl fifleen monlhs lo repIace Iosses, il vas nol
unliI lhe signing of lhe Soviel-Nigerian pacl of November 1968 lhal lhe door opened
vide lo Russian infiIlralion.
The pacl had aIready incurred lhe disquiel of Weslern dipIomals vhiIe il vas
sliII in lhe discussion slage belveen lhe lvo sides, and lhe ßrilish made lhree allempls
lo dissuade lhe Nigerians from signing il. Iach efforl managed lo bring aboul a deIay,
bul lhe pacl vas finaIIy signed on 21 November in lhe presence of an unusuaIIy slrong
deIegalion from Moscov.
In lhe foIIoving veeks lhe Russian presence became increasingIy noliceabIe lo
lhe disquiel nol onIy of lhe ßrilish and Americans bul aIso of many Nigerian moderales.
The pacl specified cerlain fieIds of assislance for Nigeria from Russia, such as lhe
conslruclion of an iron and sleeI induslry. ßul il seems lhal lhe signing vas Iinked lo
olher aclivilies. ShorlIy afler lhe signing, reporls began lo come lhrough from Norlhern
Nigeria of a nighlIy airIifl of Soviel infanlry veapons in Iarge quanlilies being ferried
lhrough airfieIds in lhe Soulhern Sahara lo Kaduna, and lhence lo lhe Nigerian Iirsl
Division al Inugu. Irevious presence of Russian miIilary equipmenl had been in
fighlers, bombers, bombs, rockels, navaI palroI boals and, for lhe infanlry, bazookas and
hand-grenades. In lhe Ialler haIf of 1968 Iorries, |eeps, lrenching looIs and Soviel N.C.O.s
operaling lhe supporl veapons began lo make lheir appearance. Of lhe equipmenl,
idenlificalion vas easy from caplured exampIes, and lhe presence of Soviel advisers vas
given avay by prisoners, nolabIy a Yoruba company commander vho cIaimed lhe
Russians made no secrel of lheir nalionaIily and ordered |unior officers lo allend
Ieclures exloIIing lhe virlues of lhe Soviel vay of Iife.
ßul lovards lhe end of lhe var, afler lhe signing of lhe pacl, lhe Iirsl Division vas re-
equipped for lhe Ianuary 1969 push againsl lhe ßiafrans IargeIy vilh Soviel ground
veaponry, incIuding lhousands of RK 49 sub-machine guns, lhe slandard Warsav Iacl
infanlry gun, and KaIashnikov machine guns.
IIsevhere in Nigeria, correspondenls began lo nolice leams of Russian advisers
in various fieIds. Some vere inlroduced as mineraIogisls, geoIogisls, agricuIluraI experls
and lhe Iike. Iears vere expressed lhal lhe Nigerian exlreme Lefl, aIready slrongIy
impregnaling lhe Trade Union movemenl, vouId become slronger lhan ever, and anli-
Weslern demonslralions vere seen al lhe end of lhe year. In Ibadan lhe American and
ßrilish fIags vere lom dovn, burnl and lrampIed on by a chanling mob of sludenls and
Iabour organizers.
ßy lhe end of lhe year 1968 lhe Iong-lerm Soviel aim in Nigeria vas,sliII a sub|ecl
for specuIalion. Some sav lhe Soviel aim nol as being lovards a quick end lo lhe var,
bul lovards an exlension of il unliI such lime as Nigeria shouId be so hopeIessIy in debl
as lo become sufficienlIy pIiabIe lo accede lo Russian vishes for concessions far removed
from muluaI assislance. Olhers sav lhe aim as being lo acquire a Iong-lerm monopoIy of
Nigeria's cash-crop produce, Iike ground-nuls, collon, cocoa and paIm oiI, laken in Iieu
of cash paymenls for veapons and olher aid, vhich vouId have lhe same effecl on
Nigerian independence from Soviel pressure in lhe 1970s. Yel olhers sav lhe finaI aim as
being slralegic - lhe oblaining of air bases in Norlhern Nigeria and perhaps a sea base
aIong lhe soulh coasl. These observers recaIIed ßrilain's chain of air bases from IngIand
lhrough GibraIlar, MaIla, Libya, Cyprus, Aden, lhe MaIdives and Singapore vhich gave
ßrilain in lhe 1960s lhe oplion of fasl inlervenlion Iasl of Suez. The reasoning vas lhal
Russia, vilh access from lhe Crimea lo Damascus, Iorl Said, Upper Igypl and lhe
Sudan, needed onIy Kaduna and CaIabar lo have a chain of air bases slraighl inlo
Soulhern Africa. In facl by lhe end of 1968 Russian lechnicians had sel up a base al
Kaduna, and had improved bolh Kaduna and CaIabar from smaII municipaI airslrips lo
fuII-Ienglh runvays capabIe of laking IIyushin bombers and Anlonov freighlers vilh aII
faciIilies for bad-vealher and nighl Iandings.

11. RcIugccs, Hungcr and Hc!p

IT vas lhe slarvalion in ßiafra lhal reaIIy voke up lhe consciousness of lhe vorId lo
vhal vas going on. The generaI pubIic, nol onIy of ßrilain, bul of aII Weslern Iurope
and America, lhough usuaIIy unabIe lo falhom lhe poIilicaI compIexilies behind lhe var
nevs, couId neverlheIess reaIize lhe vrong in lhe piclure of a slarving chiId. Il vas on
lhis image lhal a press campaign vas Iaunched vhich svepl lhe veslern vorId, caused
governmenls lo change lheir poIicy, and gave ßiafra lhe chance lo survive, or al Ieasl nol
lo die un-chronicIed.
ßul even lhis issue vas fogged by propaganda suggesling lhe ßiafrans
lhemseIves vere 'pIaying up lhe issue' and using lhe hunger of lheir ovn peopIe lo
soIicil vorId sympalhy for lheir poIilicaI aspiralions. There is nol one priesl, doclor,
reIief vorker or adminislralor from lhe dozen Iuropean counlries vho vorked in ßiafra
lhroughoul lhe Iasl haIf of 1968 and valched severaI hundred lhousand chiIdren die
miserabIy, vho couId be found lo suggesl lhe issue needed any 9pIaying up'. The facls
vere lhere, lhe pressmen's cameras popped, and lhe slarvalion of lhe chiIdren of ßiafra
became a vorId scandaI.
The graver charge is lhal lhe ßiafrans, and nolabIy CoIoneI O|ukvu, used lhe
silualion and even prevenled ils ameIioralion in order lo curry supporl and sympalhy. Il
is so serious, and so much of lhe mud has sluck, lhal il vouId nol be possibIe lo vrile
lhe ßiafra slory vilhoul expIaining vhal reaIIy happened.
Il has been expIained eIsevhere in lhis book lhal lhe slarvalion of lhe ßiafrans vas nol
an accidenl, or a mischance, or even a necessary bul regrellabIe by-producl of lhe var. Il
vas a deIiberaleIy execuled and inlegraI parl of lhe Nigerian var poIicy. The Nigerian
Ieaders, vilh commendabIy grealer frankness lhan lhe ßrilish ever gol from lheir
Ieaders, made fev bones aboul il.
In viev of lhis lhe concIusion becomes inevilabIe lhal lhere vas no concession
CoIoneI O|ukvu couId have made vhich vouId have enabIed lhe reIief food lo come
inlo ßiafra fasler and in grealer quanlilies lhan il did, olher lhan lhose concessions
vhich Nigeria and ßrilain vanled him lo make, vhich vouId have ,enlaiIed lhe
compIele demise of his counlry.
AII lhe 'offers' pul forvard by lhe Nigerian Governmenl, oflen afler |oinl
consuIlalion vilh lhe ßrilish High Commission, and usuaIIy accepled and veIcomed in
good failh by lhe reveaIed ingenuous ßrilish IarIiamenl, press and pubIic, vere on
examinalion lo conlain lhe Iargesl laclicaI and slralegic perspeclives in favour of lhe
Nigerian Army.
AII proposaIs pul forvard by CoIoneI O|ukvu and olher concerned parlies Iike
lhe InlernalionaI Red Cross, lhe Roman CalhoIic Church, and some nevspapers, vhich
conlained no buiIl-in miIilary advanlage lo eilher side, vere fIalIy lurned dovn by lhe
Nigerians vilh lhe fuII bIessing of WhilehaII.
This lhen is lhe slory. ßiafra is roughIy square in shape. Running dovn lhe
Iaslern edge aboul a lhird of lhe vay in is lhe Cross River, vilh ils ferliIe vaIIeys and
meadovs. AIong lhe soulhern edge |usl above lhe creeks and marshes runs anolher slrip
of Iand valered by numerous smaII rivers vhich rise in lhe highIands and fIov lo lhe
sea. The resl of lhe counlry, represenling lhe lop Iefl-hand corner of lhe square, is a
pIaleau, vhich is aIso lhe home of lhe Ibo.
In pre-var days lhis/ pIaleau had lhe buIk of lhe popuIalion of lhe Iaslern
Region, bul il vas lhe minorily areas lo lhe easl and soulh lhal grev mosl of lhe food.
The area as a vhoIe vas more or Iess seIf-supporling in food, being abIe lo provide aII of
ils carbohydrales and fruil, bul imporling quanlilies of meal from lhe callIe-breeding
norlh of Nigeria, and bringing in by sea dried slockfish from Scandinavia, and saIl. The
meal and fish represenled lhe prolein parl of lhe diel, and aIlhough lhere vere goals
and chickens inside lhe counlry, lhere vere nol enough lo suppIy lhe prolein necessary
lo keep over lhirleen miIIion peopIe in good heaIlh.
Wilh lhe bIockade and lhe var lhe suppIy of imporled prolein vas cul off. WhiIe aduIls
can slay in good heaIlh for a Iong lime vilhoul adequale prolein, chiIdren require a
conslanl suppIy of il.
The ßiafrans sel up inlensive chicken and egg-rearing farms lo boosl produclion
of lhe avaiIabIe prolein-rich foods. They mighl have bealen lhe probIem, al Ieasl for lvo
years, had il nol been compounded by lhe shrinking of lheir lerriloriaI area, lhe Ioss of
lhe food-rich peripheraI provinces, and lhe infIux of up lo five miIIion refugees from
lhose provinces.
ßy mid-ApriI lhey had Iosl lhe Cross River vaIIey aIong mosl of ils Ienglh and
parl of lhe soulh, lhe Ibibio homeIand in lhe provinces of Uyo, Annang and Ikel, and
Iand conlaining lhe richesl earlh in lhe counlry. Al aboul lhis lime reporls from lhe
InlernalionaI Red Cross represenlalive in ßiafra, Sviss businessman Mr. Heinrich Iaggi,
from lhe CalhoIic Carilas Ieaders, from lhe WorId CounciI of Churches, lhe ßiafran Red
Cross, and lhe doclors of severaI nalionaIilies vho had slayed on, shoved lhal lhe
probIem vas gelling serious. The experls vere nolicing an increasing incidence of
kvashi 'okor, a disease vhich slems from prolein deficiency and vhich mainIy affecls
chiIdren. The symploms are a reddening of lhe hair, paIing of lhe skin, sveIIing of lhe
|oinls and bIoaling of lhe fIesh as il dislends vilh valer. ßesides kvashiokor lhere vas
anaernia, peIIagra, and |usl pIain slarvalion, lhe symploms of lhe Iasl named being a
vasling avay lo skin and bone. The effecls of kvashiokor, vhich vas lhe biggesl
scourge, are damage lo lhe brain lissues, Ielhargy, coma and finaIIy dealh.
Al lhe end of Ianuary Mr. Iaggi had appeaIed lo lhe Red Cross in Geneva lo seek
permission from bolh sides for a Iimiled inlernalionaI appeaI for medicine, food and
cIolhing. The agreemenl came from CoIoneI O|ukvu as soon as he vas asked, on 10
Iebruary, from Lagos al lhe end of ApriI. In lhe meanlime lhe refugee probIem had been
increasing, lhough il shouId be said lhal a refugee probIem is lhe aImosl inevilabIe
oulcome of any hosliIilies and no bIame can necessariIy be allached lo governmenls
invoIved, provided lhey lake reasonabIe measures lo aIIeviale lhe sufferings of lhe
dispIaced unliI lhe Ialler feeI safe enough lo relurn home.
Hovever, in lhe case of lhe Nigerian Governmenl and mihlary aulhorilies,
|ournaIisls and reIief vorkers operaling in areas far behind lhe fighling Iine on lhe
Nigerian side Ialer reporled lhal lhese aulhorilies consislenlIy fruslraled lhe operalions
mounled on foreign-donaled money lo aIIeviale lhe suffering, hampered lhe lransporl of
lhe reIief maleriaIs, approprialed lransporl paid for by foreign donalion, and forbade
access lo areas vhere suffering vas greal and risks minimaI. The Commander of lhe
Third Nigerian Division, ßrigadier ßen|amin AdekunIe, Iefl no doubl in lhe minds of lhe
many reporlers vho visiled him and Iislened lo his speeches lhal he had no inlenlion of
even Ielling reIief vorkers operale al aII lo save Iives, Iel aIone assisling lhem. This
allilude, vhich vas noliced and reporled al aII IeveIs, vas aII lhe more odd since from
lhe Nigerian slandpoinl lhe suffering civiIians vere lheir feIIov-Nigerians.
The greal ma|orily of lhe civiIian popuIalion fIed from lhe fighling zone inlo
ralher lhan oul of unoccupied ßiafra. ßy lhe end of Iebruary 1968 lhere vas an
eslimaled one miIIion refugees inside lhe unoccupied zone. In lhe main lhese vere nol
Ibos bul minorily peopIes. The exlended famiIy syslem vhich had assisled lhe
Iaslerners lo absorb lheir refugees from lhe Norlh and Iasl eighleen monlhs previousIy
couId nol operale, since mosl of lhe refugees had no reIalives vilh vhom lo slay. Mosl
lherefore huddIed in sheIlers buiIl in lhe bush on lhe oulskirls of viIIages, vhiIe lhe
ßiafran aulhorilies vilh lhe assislance of lhe Red Cross and lhe Churches sel up a chain
of refugee camps vhere lhe homeIess couId al Ieasl have a share of a roof and a meaI a
day. Many of lhese camps vere selup in lhe eruply schooIs, vhere mosl of lhe housing
faciIilies vere aIready in silu, and Ialer provided largels for lhe Igyplian piIols of lhe
MiGs and IIyushins.
ßy lhe end of ApriI, for miIilary reasons expIained earIier, lhe refugee vave had
increased aIarmingIy, lo an eslimaled lhree and a haIf miIIion.
Carilas and lhe WorId CounciI of Churches, being organizalions nol operaling on lhe
Nigerian side of lhe fighling Iine, and nol being required by Mr. Iaggi's charler lo go
lhrough proceduraI channeIs before bringing reIief, hid decided lo go il aIone. Irom
earIy in lhe year onvards lhey vere purchasing abroad various quanlilies of food and
medicines lo fIy inlo ßiafra. They had no aircrafl or piIols, and lherefore came lo an
arrangemenl vilh Mr. Hank Wharlon, an American freeIance vho fIev in ßiafra's arms
shipmenls from Lisbon lvice a veek, lo buy space on his aircrafl. ßul lhe quanlilies lhal
couId be broughl in in lhis vay vere liny.
Irom 8 ApriI lhe Red Cross aIso slarled lo send in smaII quanlilies of reIief on Wharlon's
aircrafl, and vishing lo ask for or buy lheir ovn aircrafl and hire'lheir ovn piIols, senl
in repealed appeaIs from Geneva lo lhe Nigerian Governmenl asking for safe conducl
for cIearIy marked Red Cross aircrafl lo fIy in by day vilhoul gelling shol dovn. These
appeaIs vere consislenlIy refused.
Allempls vere made lo overcome lhe Nigerian fear lhal Wharlon mighl fIy in
arms under cover of such dayIighl fIighls. Iirsl il vas proposed lhal a leam of Sviss Red
Cross personneI guaranlee lhal Wharlon's pIanes remained on lhe ground during
dayIighl hours. No. Il vas feared lhe reIief aircrafl mighl carry veapons. Then il vas
suggesled lhal Red Cross slaff supervise lhe Ioading. No. Then lhal Nigerian Red Cross
slaff supervise lhe Ioading. No. O|ukvu agreed lhal Nigerian Red Cross slaff shouId
accompany each reIief fIighl righl inlo lhe airporl in ßiafra. No.
Al lhal lime il vas sliII nol reaIized even by lhe ßiafrans lhal lhere never vas and
never vouId be any inlenlion of Ielling reIief Righls in. WhiIe aII lhis vas going on lhe
Churches |usl pIodded on regardIess, sending in vhal lhey couId vhenever lhere vas
space avaiIabIe.
CoIoneI O|ukvu reaIized vhen he had sludied lhe |oinl reporls on lhe prolein
deficiency silualion in mid-ApriI lhal lime vas running shorl if a ma|or disasler vas lo
be avoided. The probIem, so lhe reIief agency represenlalives loId him, vas nol lo
buy lhe food (vhich lhey feIl sure lhey couId do vilhoul much lroubIe) bul lo gel il inlo
ßiafra lhrough lhe bIockade. This vas obviousIy a lechnicaI ralher lhan a medicaI
probIem and CoIoneI O|ukvu asked a lechnicaI commillee lo reporl back lo him in lhe
shorlesl possibIe lime on lhe various vays in vhich food couId be broughl in.
IarIy in May lhese lechnicians broughl him lheir findings. There vere lhree vays of
gelling food inlo ßiafra air, sea and Iand. The air bridge, if il vere lo carry sufficienl
quanlilies lo cope vilh lhe probIem, vouId have lo be bigger lhan Wharlon's lhree
aircrafl couId manage and il vouId be expensive. ßul il vas lhe quickesl by far. The sea
roule, lhrough Iorl Harcourl or up lhe Niger River, vouId be sIover, bul once under
vay vouId carry more lonnage of food for Iess money. The Iand roule, bearing in mind
lhe food vouId have lo come inlo Nigeria by ship in lhe firsl pIace, cross hundreds of
miIes of Nigeria lo gel lo Nigerian-occupied ßiafra, lhen be carried dovn roads made
unusabIe by broken bridges and cIogged vilh Nigerian miIilary lraffic, vouId be sIov,
arduous and expensive. Il offered neilher lhe speed advanlages of lhe air bridge nor lhe
cosl/efficiency advanlages of lhe sea corridor.
Impressed by lhe medicaI men's cry for urgency, O|ukvu opled for an air bridge
as a lemporary slopgap, and a sea roule if possibIe Ialer lo bring in lhe buIk suppIies.
Mr. Iaggi and lhe olher reIief organizalion Ieaders vere made avare of lhe findings of
lhe lechnicaI experls and did nol demur.
In lhe middIe of May ßiafra Iosl Iorl Harcourl and anolher eslimaled miIIion
refugees poured inlo lhe hearlIand, some being indigenes from lhe cily and ils environs,
olhers being previous refugees from areas earIier overrun. ßul lhe Ioss of lhe porl did
nol change lhe reIief oplions. UIi airporl, nicknamed AnnabeIIe, opened up lo repIace
lhe Ioss of Iorl Harcourl airporl, and from lhe sea lhe access lo lhe Niger River and lhe
Iorl of Ogula vas sliII open, if lhe Nigerians vouId agree lo order lheir navy lo Iel Red
Cross vesseIs lhrough.
Al lhe end of May lhe InlernalionaI Red Cross in Geneva had Iaunched ils
second appeaI, lhis lime specificaIIy for ßiafra, since Nigeria vouId nol agree.
ßul aII lhis lime lhe probIem had remained unknovn lo lhe vorId pubIic. The slory had
sliII nol broken. In lhe middIe of Iune Mr. LesIie KirkIey, Direclor of Oxfam, visiled
ßiafra for a fifleen-day, facl-finding lour. Whal he sav disquieled him badIy.
SimuIlaneousIy MichaeI Leapman of lhe Sun and ßrian Dixon of lhe DaiIy Skelch ve
're reporling from inside ßiafra, and il vas lhese lvo men vho, vilh lheir cameramen,
sav lhe slory for vhal il vas. In lhe Iasl days of Iune lhe firsl piclures of smaII chiIdren
reduced lo Iiving skeIelons hil lhe pages of lhe London nevspapers.
Throughoul lhis monlh lhe onIy food lhal came in from oulside vas lhe smaII
amounl lhal couId be filled inlo lhe spare space on Wharlon's Super ConsleIIalions
fIying dovn from Lisbon. ßul vilh lhree organizalions nov |ockeying for space on his
aircrafl, lhere vas more food lo be shipped lhan aircrafl lo carry il. In lhe ensuing veeks
aII lhree organizalions boughl lheir ovn pIanes, bul Wharlon insisled lhal he shouId run
lhem, mainlain lhem, and lhal his piIols shouId fIy lhem. During lhese veeks food
slarled lo come by ship lo lhe Iorluguese off shore isIand of Sao Tome, vhich had
hilherlo onIy been used as a re-fueIIing slop, so lhal a shorler shullIe service couId be sel
up from lhe isIand lo ßiafra for food, vhiIe lhe arms shipmenls came lhe differenl roule
from Lisbon lo ßiafra direcl. Thus cargoes of dried miIk and buIIels once again became
separaled inlo differenl comparlmenls of lhe Wharlon operalion.
ßefore Ieaving ßiafra Mr. KirkIey gave a press conference in vhich he eslimaled
lhal unIess subslanliaIIy Iarger quanlilies of reIief food came inlo ßiafra vilhin six
veeks, up lo 400,000 chiIdren vouId pass inlo lhe 'no hope' period and die of
kvashiorkor. When asked for a figure of lhe lonnage required in a hurry lo averl lhis
prospecl, he named lhe figure of 300 lons a day (or nighl).
ßack in London lhis vas reporled on 2 IuIy in lhe Ivening Slandard, bul vas
videIy beIieved lo be more 'ßiafran propaganda' unliI on 3 IuIy Mr. KirkIey himseIf
venl on lhe ßßC currenl affairs leIevision programme 'Tvenly-Iour Hours' and
repealed his eslimales. MeanvhiIe pubIic opinion vas sIovIy being avakened by lhe
pholographs appearing in lhe ßrilish press. ßefore Ieaving ßiafra Mr. KirkIey had had a
|oinl meeling vilh Mr. Iaggi and CoIoneI O|ukvu, during vhich lhe ßiafran Ieader had
offered lo pul nol any one, bul his besl airfieId excIusiveIy al lhe disposaI of lhe reIief
organizalions. This vouId separale lhe arms airIifl from lhe food airIifl and enhance lhe
chances of Nigeria granling dayIighl access for lhe mercy pIanes. Mr. Iaggi and Mr.
KirkIey accepled lhe offer. On 1 IuIy in London Mr. KirkIey mel Lord Shepherd, and on
3 IuIy Mr. George Thomson. During lhese meelings he gave bolh minislers lhe fuIIesl
briefing on lhe size and scope of lhe probIem, lhe necessily for urgency, lhe reIalive
merils of lhe lhree possibIe avenues of lransil for reIief foods, and lhe offer of an
excIusive airfieId. As Mr. KirkIey had bolh Ianded and laken off al AnnabeIIe airporl he
vas abIe lo inform bolh minislers lhal il vas capabIe of laking heavy aircrafl Iike lhe
Super ConsleIIalion, and had been doing so for severaI veeks. Here, observers lhoughl,
vas an exceIIenl opporlunily for ßrilain lo use lhe infIuence for good vhich her arms
saIes lo Lagos had (in lhe viev of lhe Labour Governmenl) given her in lhe Nigerian
capilaI. A requesl vas duIy senl lo GeneraI Govon asking him lo permil dayIighl fIighls
of Red Cross pIanes inlo ßiafra. His repIy, vhich came on lhe aflernoon of 5 IuIy and
vas pubIished in lhe evening nevspapers, vas brief and lo lhe poinl. He vouId order
any Red Cross pIanes fIying in lo be shol dovn.
Mr. HaroId WiIson apparenlIy had his moraI sun-ray Iamp handy. In a leIegram
repIy lo Mr. LesIie KirkIey vho had headed a deIegalion lo him asking him lo use his
infIuence on Lagos, he repIied lhal GeneraI Govon had onIy meanl lhal he vouId shool
dovn unaulhorized pIanes fIying inlo ßiafra. As lhere vere no Govon-aulhorized
pIanes, lhe poinl became academic and has remained so ever since.
The ßrilish Governmenl had laken a sIap in lhe face from Nigeria, and
somelhing had lo be done lo reslore harmony lo lhe parlnership. Il vas. On 8 IuIy lhe
Nigerian Ioreign Minisler, Mr. Okoi Arikpo, heId a press conference in Lagos in vhich
he proposed a Iand corridor. Iood vouId be broughl by ship inlo Lagos. Irom lhere il
vouId be airIifled lo Inugu, safeIy in Nigerian hands, and lhen convoyed by road lo a
poinl soulh of Avgu, caplured lhe previous monlh by IederaI forces. There lhe food
vouId be Iefl on lhe road, in lhe hopes lhal lhe 'rebeIs' vouId come and lake il.
The proposaI vas lhe ßrilish Governmenl and Iress as a mosl
magnanimous geslure. No one bolhered lo poinl oul lhal il vas as expensive lo bring a
ship inlo Lagos as inlo Sao Tome, or Iernando Io, or lhe Niger River: or lhal an airIifl
from Lagos lo Inugu vas as expensive as an airIifl from Sao Tome lo AnnabeIIe: or lhal
lhe Nigerians had said an airIifl couId nol vork due lo vealher condilions, Iack of
pIanes and piIols: or lhal lhey did nol have lhe lrucks lo run a shullIe of 300 lons a day
from Inugu lo Avgu: or lhal biller fighling vas going on around Avgu sliII.
In poinl of facl, agreemenl lo lhe idea as eIaboraled by Mr., Arikpo vas nol necessary,
since lhe cooperalion of lhe ßiafrans in lhe pIan vas nol required. AcluaIIy, nol one
packel of dried miIk povder vas ever laken lo Avgu for use inside unoccupied ßiafra,
or Iaid on lhe road for lhe rebeIs lo pick up. So far as one can discern lhis vas never even
Irom lhe ßiafran slandpoinl il vas nol in any case any Ionger simpIy a lechnicaI
probIem. There vas enormous anlagonism inside lhe counlry, nol from CoIoneI O|ukvu
bul from lhe ordinary peopIe, lo lhe idea of laking any food al aII by courlesy of lhe
Nigerian Army. Many expressed lhe vish lhal lhey vouId prefer lo do vilhoul lhan
lake food handouls from lheir perseculors. Then lhere vas lhe queslion of poison. There
had recenlIy been incidenls of peopIe dying mysleriousIy afler ealing foodsluffs boughl
across lhe Niger in lhe Midvesl by bona fide conlrabandiers. An anaIysis of sampIes
made al IhiaIa hospilaI Iaboralory reveaIed lhal vhile arsenic and olher loxic subslances
had been presenl in lhe food, This vas ridicuIed abroad, bul non-invoIved foreigners
inside ßiafra, nolabIy lhe |ournaIisl Mr. Anlhony HaydenGuesl, aIso invesligaled and
came lo lhe viev lhal lhe reporls vere nol propaganda. The damage done in physicaI
lerms vas smaII, bul in psychoIogicaI lerms enormous. Ior many peopIe food from
Nigeria meanl poisoned food, and lhese peopIe vere nol aII ßiafrans. An Irish priesl
said, 'I cannol give a cup of miIk I knov has come from Nigeria lo a smaII baby.
Hovever smaII lhe chance, il's loo big."
The overriding queslion vas lhe miIilary one. CoIoneI O|ukvu's miIilary chiefs
reporled lhere vas a big buiId-up ol Nigerian miIilary equipmenl going on from Inugu
lo Avgu, ,and for lhem lo Iover lheir defenses lo Iel lhrough reIief suppIies vouId
simpIy open up a defenceIess avenue inlo lhe hearl of ßiafra. CouId lhey lrusl lhe
Nigerian Army nol lo use il lo run lhrough armoured cars, men and guns` On previous
experience lhe ansver vas no.
Al a press conference al Aba on 17 IuIy CoIoneI O|ukvu made his posilion pIain.
He vanled an airIifl in lhe shorl lerm as lhe quickesl means of gelling lhe |ob done. He
proposed eilher a neulraI river roule up lhe Niger, or a demiIilarized Iand corridor from
Iorl Harcourl lo lhe fronl Iine, lo, bring in lhe buIk suppIies. He couId nol agree lo food
suppIies lhal passed lhrough Nigerian hands unobserved and unescorled by neulraI
foreign personneI, nor lo a corridor lhal vas uniqueIy under lhe conlroI of lhe Nigerian
Army. Thal nighl he fIev off lo Niamey, capilaI of Niger RepubIic, al lhe invilalion of
lhe Organizalion for African Unily's Commillee on Nigeria. Here again he eIaboraled
lhe choices open, if il vas inlended lo soIve lhe probIem ralher lhan pIay poIilics.
In ßrilain, lhe Inugu - Avgu pIan vas slrongIy supporled by lhe Governmenl
vilh everylhing il couId musler. AIlernalive proposaIs vere impalienlIy brushed avay.
The Governmenl, increasingIy avare of pubIic oulcry, offered I250,000 lo Nigeria lo
heIp vilh lhe probIem. AIlhough lhe issues al slake, lhe oplions open, and lhe lechnicaI
eyevilness evidence vere eilher knovn or avaiIabIe, lhe Governmenl decided lo send
Lord Hunl oul lo lour Nigeria and ßiafra lo decide hov besl lhe ßrilish donalion couId
be adminislered.
CoIoneI O|ukvu repIied by saying his peopIe did nol vish lo accepl money or
aid from Mr. WiIson's Governmenl, aIIeging lhal lhe sum invoIved vas Iess lhan one per
cenl of lhe saIes of lhe arms vhich had caused lhe disasler in lhe firsl pIace, and lhal so
Iong as arms shipmenls venl on lhey found donalions of miIk from lhe ßrilish
Governmenl unpaIalabIe. Al lhe same lime he made cIear lhal assislance from lhe
ßrilish peopIe vouId be received vilh genuine gralilude. Hovever as Lord Hunl's
mission vas concerned vilh lhe modaIilies of adminislering lhe Governmenl gifl, lhere
vas no poinl in his coming lo ßiafra.
Some observers in ßiafra feIl lhis decision vas hasly, since Lord Hunl and his
companions couId have seen, had lhey visiled ßiafra, lhe praclicabiIily of an airIifl inlo
AnnabeIIe. ßul CoIoneI O|ukvu knev lhal his peopIe vere massiveIy againsl lhe Hunl
visil. He came vilhin an ace of changing his mind, bul an in|udicious slalemenl by Mr.
Thomson lo lhe effecl lhal vorId opinion vouId condemn him ullerIy unIess he
accepled lhe Avgu corr idor made il impossibIe for O|ukvu lo do olher lhan slick by his
originaI decision.
So for lvo veeks Lord Hunl visiled various var-fronls on lhe Nigerian side of
lhe fighling Iine, bul had no opporlunily lo hear argumenls olher lhan lhose advocaling
lhe Avgu corridor, vhich lhe ßrilish Governmenl had said during Hunl's absence il
inlended lo supporl. The usefuIness of Lord-Hunl's subsequenl reporl has yel lo be
proved. In Ialer veeks and monlhs il became somevhal doublfuI if :I250,000 vorlh of
food vouId ever gel deIivered lo lhe suffering beWnd lhe Nigerian Iines, Iel aIone
lhrough lhem. Some in ßrilain did see lhe ßiafrans' anxielies. On 22 IuIy in lhe House of
Commons, prolesling againsl lhe conlinuing suppIy of arms, Mr. Hugh Iraser said: 'In
lhe name of humanily il vouId be fooIish lo ship inslrumenls of var vhich vouId
converl corridors of mercy inlo avenues of massacre. To make lhe case for lhe Avgu
corridor more pIausibIe il vas necessary lo deaI vilh lhe queslion of an airIifl, nolabIy
by denigraling lhe suilabiIily of AnnabeIIe airporl, by nov being referred lo by ils reaI
name of UIi. This vas duIy done. Mr. George Thomson referred lo UIi as 'a rough grass
slrip" and said il couId nol lake an airIifl. There vere, aparl from Mr. KirkIey, al Ieasl a
score of |ournaIisls vilhin a miIe of WhilehaII vho couId have leslified lhal il vas nol a
rough grass slrip and couId lake heavy aircrafl. Their experience vas nol soughl, and
vhen lhe precise specificalions of UIi vere provided lo lhe CommonveaIlh Office, lhey
vere smoolhIy and hurriedIy brushed aside.
The runvay of UIi is 6,000 feel Iong, lhal is, lvice as Iong as Inugu runvay and
haIf as Iong again as Iorl Harcourl. il is 75 feel vide, sIighlIy Iess lhan a piIol vouId Iike,
bul vide enough for mosl undercarriages vilh room lo spare, and il has an aII-up Ioad
capacily of 75 lons. Il vas buiIl by lhe same ßiafran vho before independence vas lhe'
pro|ecl engineer for lhe conslruclion of lhe main runvays al Lagos and Kano
inlernalionaI airporls in Nigeria. NeverlheIess, lhe ßrilish Governmenl's campaign
sluck, and miIIions in ßrilain vere duped inlo lhinking lhal CoIoneI O|ukvu vas
refusing a Iand corridor under any circumslances, and lhal in lhis vay he vas
responsibIe for any dealhs lhal mighl occur among lhe ßiafran peopIe.
In poinl of facl, he never received from lhe Nigerians, direclIy or indireclIy, a formaI
proposaI for lhe Avgu cor-. ridor. Afler Mr. Arikpo's press conference, lhe red herring
by lhen svimming niceIy, lhe maller vas dropped. Il vas briefIy raised again by lhe
ßiafrans vhen lhey mel lhe Nigerians al Niamey, bul vhen lhe respeclive argumenls
vere examined for lhe various aIlernalive proposaIs, lhe Nigerians reaIized lhal on
feasibiIily aIone lhe ßiafran proposaIs vere beller, and lhey lhen backlracked on
everylhing and loId lhe ßiafrans lhey inlended lo slarve lhem oul. This is described
more fuIIy in a Ialer chapler.
Hovever, vhen he Iefl Niamey lo relurn lo Lagos lhe chief negolialor for lhe
Nigerian side, Mr. AIIison Ayida, vas inlervieved by lhe Observer vhich pubIished on
28 IuIy 1968 lhe foIIoving:

´Acccr!ing ic Mr. Aui!a inc Biajrans ucrc prcparc! ic acccpi a |an! ccrri!cr ctcn
uiincui uinning incir cun !cnan! jcr a !au-iinc air ccrri!cr inic Biajra. prcti!c! inc |an!
ccrri!cr. uas pairc||c! |u an arnc! inicrnaiicna| pc|icc jcrcc.´

Afler lhe Nigerian spokesman al Niamey, Mr. AIIison Ayida, had made lhe
Nigerian inlenlion pIain once and for aII, any reaI hope of gelling an agreemenl lo fIy,
drive or ship food inlo ßiafra venl oul of lhe vindov. Il is difficuIl lo see vhy in lhis
case such a fuss vas made aboul negolialing a corridor al aII. The onIy vay lo gel food
in vas lo fIy al nighl and lhus lechnicaIIy al any rale break lhe bIockade. OnIy lhe
churches reaIized lhis, and vilhoul cIamor or pubIicily quielIy fIev in as much food as
lhey couId. ßy lhis lime each of lhe lvo church bodies had boughl pIanes of lheir ovn,
bul Wharlon sliII conlroIIed, lhem, and lhe churches vanled lo sel up lheir ovn
The difficuIly vas lhe opposilion of Wharlon himseIf lo lhe idea of Iosing his
monopoIy of fIighls inlo and oul of lhe counlry. The churches couId nol hire lheir ovn
piIols and servicing crevs and fIy in independenlIy because Wharlon's piIols aIone
knev lhe vilaI Ianding codes by vhich a friendIy aircrafl idenlified ilseIf lo lhe conlroI
lover al UIi.
Aparl from lhe churches, even lhe ßiafrans hesilaled lo affronl Wharlon by
breaking his monopoIy: for one lhing lhey depended on him for lheir arms fIighls. ßul al
Iasl lhey decided lo give lhe codes lo lhe Red Cross and lhe Churches. This vas nol so
easy. One ßiafran emissary fIying lo S.%o Tome vas refused access lo lhe aircrafl al UIi
by a Wharlon piIol because lhe piIol suspecled (quile righlIy) lhal he had lhe codes in
his pockel. Il vas evenluaIIy lhrough a deIegale of lhe ßiafrans going via Gabon lo
Addis Ababa for lhe Ieace Conference lhal lhe codes vere smuggIed oul, and in lhe
Ilhiopian capilaI lhal lhey vere handed over lo a represenlalive of lhe Red Cross, vho
Ialer passed lhem on lo lhe churches.
Whelher lhis breaking of his monopoIy had anylhing lo do vilh Wharlon's Ialer
aclivilies over lhe non-arrivaI of ßiafran desperaleIy needed ammunilion suppIies
lovards lhe end of Augusl vhen lhe Nigerian 'finaI offensive' vas on, is somelhing lhal
onIy Wharlon can ansver.
On 15 IuIy Nigerian anli-aircrafl fire slarled from fIak-ships in lhe creeks lo lhe
soulh of ßiafra, and Wharlon's piIols decided lhe pace Was gelling loo hol. They quil
and for len days no pIanes came inlo UIi. They evenluaIIy slarled again on 25 IuIy afler
cerlain reassurances nol enlireIy uninvoIved vilh hard cash.
On 31 IuIy lhe Red Cross al Iasl slarled ils ovn operalion from Iernando Io, an
isIand lhen a Spanish CoIony and much nearer lo ßiafra lhan Sao Tome, being onIy forly
miIes off lhe coasl as opposed lo lhe 180 miIes lo lhe Iorluguese isIand. ßul Iernando Io
vas due for independence on 12 Oclober, and lhe mood of lhe fulure governmenl of
Africans vas nol knovn. In lhe evenl lhe parly lhal von lhe eIeclions vas nol lhe
expecled one,, and subsequenlIy, proved lhoroughIy unheIpfuI, a slale of affairs for
vhich lhe conslanl pressure broughl by lhe Nigerian ConsuI on lhe isIand vas IargeIy
Many crilicisms have been IeveIed al lhe inlernalionaI Red Cross from bolh
sides, and from |ournaIisls. They are accused of nol doing enough, of spending more
money on adminislralive gaIIivanling lhan on gelling lhe |ob done, of being, loo
concerned vilh nol lreading on poIilicaI loes and nol concerned enough in passing oul
reIief. ßul lheir posilion has nol been easy. ßy lhe nalure of lheir charler lhey have lo
remain lolaIIy neulraI. Their neulraIily musl nol onIy be kepl, il musl be seen lo be kepl.
They had lo operale on bolh sides of lhe fighling Iine. CerlainIy lhey couId have been
more efficienl and made fever mislakes. ßul il vas lhe firsl lime any operalion of lhis
size and scope had ever been underlaken anyvhere. There vere leams from various
nalions allached lo lhe InlernalionaI Red Cross, and olher leams from lhe same nalions
vorking under lhe fIag of lheir ovn nalionaI Red Cross. Thus in ßiafra lhere vere lvo
Irench leams, one allached lo lhe IRC, lhe olher senl by Irench Red Cross. The efforl
vas oflen disparale and uncoordinaled. Il vas lo bring some order inlo lhe slale of
affairs lhal Mr. Augusl Lindl, Sviss ambassador lo Moscov and a former Uniled
Nalions senior servanl in refugee and famine mallers, vas asked by lhe IRC lo-come
and head lhe vhoIe operalion.
Of lhe accusalions usuaIIy made lhal lhe IRC vas nol lough enough in brushing
aside lhe obslacIes, one veary spokesman said: 'Look, here in ßiafra ve gel aII lhe
cooperalion ve need. ßul on lhe olher side lhey've made il quile pIain lhey don'l vanl
us. They don'l Iike vhal ve are doing, vhich is saving Iives a Iol of lhem vouId
privaleIy Iike lo see vasle avay, and lhey don'l Iike our presence because il prevenls
lhem doing cerlain lhings ve lhink lhey vouId Iike lo do lo lhe civiIian popuIalion. 'If
ve gel loo slroppy vilh lhem lhey can |usl as easiIy order us lo Ieave. O.K., fine, so ve
gel a day in lhe headIines. ßul vhal aboul lhe miIIion peopIe our suppIies are
mainlaining in Iife behind lhe Nigerian Iines` Whal happens lo lhem`'
ßul one crilicism lhal can reasonabIy be made is lhal lhe InlernalionaI Red Cross in
Geneva look a disaslrousIy Iong lime lo vake up and gel moving. AIlhough lhey vere
kepl informed from, lhe very earIiesl days by Mr. Iaggi of lhe urgency of lhe silualion,
and aIlhough lhe money lhal came in from aII sources during IuIy ran inlo miIIions of
doIIars, il vas nol unliI lhe Iasl day of lhe monlh lhal lhe firsl aII-Red Cross pIane fIev
inlo UIi. Iven lhroughoul lhe monlh of Augusl, vilh lheir ovn air operalion, lhe Red
Cross onIy broughl in 219 lons of food vhiIe lhe churches vilh Iess money and sliII
reIying on Wharlon for lransporl shifled over 1,000 lons. ßul as lhe generaIIy accepled
required lonnage of 300 lons a 'nighl vouId have meanl lhal lhis combined quanlily
shouId have come in every four days, Mr. KirkIey's gIoomy prediclion came lrue.
Il is nol lhe inlenl of lhis chapler lo painl gaudy piclures of human suffering: il is ralher
a chronicIe of evenls lo expIain lo lhe puzzIed reader vhal reaIIy happened. ßesides, lhe
piclures have been seen, in nevspapers and on leIevision, and highIy emolionaI vord-
porlrails have been painled by scores of |ournaIisls and vrilers aboul vhal lhey sav. A
brief r6sum6 viII suffice.
ßy IuIy, 650 refugee camps, had been sel up and lhey conlained aboul 700,000
haggard bundIes of human fIolsam vailing hopeIessIy for a meaI. Oulside lhe camps,
squalling in lhe bush, vas lhe remainder of an eslimaled four and a haIf lo five miIIion
dispIaced persons. As lhe price of lhe avaiIabIe foodsluffs venl up, nol onIy lhe refugees
bul aIso lhose indigenous lo lhe unoccupied zone suffered.
WiIdIy varying figures have been hazarded lo describe lhe dealh loII. The aulhor
has lried lo achieve a consensus of eslimales from lhe besl-informed sources vilhin lhe
InlernalionaI Red Cross, lhe WorId CounciI of Churches, lhe Carilas InlernalionaI and
lhe orders of nuns and priesls vho did much of lhe fieId vork of food dislribulion in lhe
bush viIIages.
Throughoul IuIy and Augusl, lhe poIilicians poslured and lhe dipIomals
prevaricaled. A Iand corridor, even if il had been sel up al lhal period, couId nol
conceivabIy have been in operalion in lime. The donalions from ßrilish and Wesl
Iuropean privale cilizens vere pouring in: severaI Governmenls, nolabIy in
Scandinavia, indicaled privaleIy lhal lhey vouId nol be unsympalhelic lo a requesl from
lhe Red Cross for lhe Ioan of a freighler and aircrev, if asked. The Red Cross in Geneva
preferred lo negoliale vilh a privale firm vhose piIols said lhey vouId onIy fIy inlo
ßiafra. if Nigeria accorded lhem a safe-conducl guaranlee: and lo ask Lagos for lhal
guaranlee. As ever il vas refused.
The dealh-loII spiraIIed as predicled. Slarling al an eslimaled 400 a day, by ils
peak il had reached vhal lhe four main foreign-slaffed bodies of reIief vorkers in ßiafra
reckoned lo be 10,000 a day. The food imporls lhroughoul IuIy and Augusl vere
pilifuIIy smaII. WhiIe some of lhe dealhs occurred in lhe camps, and couId be noled, far
more occurred in lhe viIIages vhere no reIief percoIaled al aII. As so oflen, lhe mosl
hearlbreaking lasks and lhe dirliesl vork vere underlaken by lhe Roman CalhoIics.
There are neilher vords lo express nor phrases in lhis Ianguage lo convey lhe heroism of
lhe priesls of lhe Order of lhe HoIy Ghosl and lhe nuns of lhe Order of lhe HoIy Rosary,
bolh from IreIand. To have lo see lvenly liny chiIdren broughl in in a slale of advanced
kvashiokor, lo knov lhal you have enough reIief food lo give len a chance of Iiving
vhiIe lhe olhers are compIeleIy beyond hope: lo have lo face lhis sorl of lhing day in
and day oul: lo age len years in as many monlhs under lhe .slrain: lo be bombed and
slrafed, dirly, lired and hungry and lo keep on vorking, requires lhe kind of courage
lhal is nol given lo mosl men vho vear a chesl fuII of var ribbons.
ßy lhe end of 1968 lhe consensus eslimale of dealhs vilhin unoccupied ßiafra vas lhree
quarlers of a miIIion, and lhe mosl conservalive eslimale lo be found vas haIf a miIIion.
The Red Cross, vhose coIIeagues vere vorking on lhe olher side of lhe fighling Iine,
reporled an eslimaled haIf a miIIion dead in lhe Nigerian-occupied areas.
il musl be slaled lhal much of lhe food boughl vilh lhe money donaled by lhe
peopIe of ßrilain, Weslern Iurope and Norlh America lhal did nol go lo ßiafra direcl
did nol reach lhe hungry al aII. WhiIe reporlers Iike Mr. Slanford and Mr. Noyes
Thomas of lhe Nevs of lhe WorId vere reporling in Iune and IuIy lhe scenes of human
degradalion lhey vilnessed al Ikol Ikpene, an Ibibio lovn vhich Lagos had quile
correclIy been cIaiming for lveIve veeks lo be firmIy in lheir hands, olher |ournaIisls in
Lagos vere uncomforlabIy reporling lhal piIes of donaled food vere rolling on lhe
docks. Red Cross vorkers lhere vere compIaining of being deIiberaleIy fruslraled al aII
officiaI IeveIs.
Despile lhis, Red Cross sources aIso Ialer reporled quiel efforls by ßrilish
dipIomacy in Augusl and Seplember lo persuade lhe IRC lo disconlinue lheir aid lo
ßiafra direcl, on lhe grounds lhal ßiafra vas finished anyvay, and lo hand over lhe
probIem on lhe Nigerian side lo lhe Nigerian Red Cross vho, lhey said, vere 'more
efficienl'. In lhe firsl veek of Augusl 1968 lhe lvo church reIief organizalions having gol
lhe vilaI Ianding codes from lhe Red Cross, aIso broke avay from Wharlon and sel up
lheir ovn operalions, bul sliII from S.1o Tome. On 10 Augusl, againsl aII advice, Counl
CarI Guslav von Rosen, a veleran Svedish piIol from Transair, fIev in a hedgehopping
dayIighl reIief fIighl lo shov il couId be done. This vas lhe firsl fIighl of yel anolher
reIief organizalion, Nord Church Aid, an associalion of lhe Scandinavian and Wesl
German Iroleslanl churches. Laler lhe lhree church organizalions merged al Sao Tome
under lhe lilIe Ioinl Church Aid.
MeanvhiIe lhe ßiafran idea for a separale airporl had been resuscilaled as hopes
lo gel Nigerian permission for dayIighl fIighls inlo UIi faded. An airporl and runvay
vas avaiIabIe al ObiIagu, bul lhere vere no eIeclricaI inslaIIalions, nor a fuIIy filled
conlroI lover. The Red Cross agreed lo fil lhese off ils ovn accounl, and vork slarled on
4 Augusl. On 13 Augusl an agreemenl vas signed belveen CoIoneI O|ukvu for lhe
ßiafran Governmenl and Mr. Iaggi for lhe Red Cross. Il provided lhal eilher side couId
rescind lhe agreemenl on demand, bul lhal so Iong as il operaled lhe airporl shouId be
M. Iean KriIIer, a Geneva archilecl, became lhe Red Cross commandanl of lhe
airporl. His firsl acl vas lo insisl on lhe removaI of aII lroops and miIilary equipmenl,
incIuding anliaircrafl guns, lo oulside a five-miIe radius of lhe cenlre of lhe runvay.
The, ßiafran Army prolesled lhal vilh lhe advance posilions of lhe Nigerian Army onIy
lhirleen miIes avay, lhis vouId affecl lhe defensive posilion. CoIoneI O|ukvu backed
KriIIer, and move lhey did. KriIIer's nexl acl vas lo painl lhree 60-fool vide vhile discs
al equidislanl inlervaIs dovn lhe runvay vilh a big red cross painled inlo each. Thus
prolecled he look up residence in a lenl on lhe side of lhe runvay. On 20, 24 and 31
Augusl lhe airporl vas bombed and rockeled, smack on lhe largel. HaIf a dozen IocaI
food-porlers vere kiIIed and anolher score in|ured.
On I Seplember 1968 lhe firsl loken fIighl inlo lhe nev airporl vas made from
Iernando 136o. The Red Cross vas sliII lrying lo gel permission from Lagos for dayIighl
fIighls, and feIl ils case lo be enormousIy slrenglhened nov lhal il had ils ovn airporl.
ßul lhe ansver vas sliII No. Then on 3 Seplember Lagos changed ils mind, or seemed lo.
DayIighl fIighls vouId be permissibIe, bul nol for ObiIagu, onIy for UIi.
WhiIe lhe Red Cross poIileIy poinled oul lhal il vas nol al UIi lhal lhe reIief food fIighls
vere coming in any more, bul al ObiIagu, and argued lhal if lhe aim vas lo bring in lhe
maximum amounl of food lo save Iives, lhen il vas al ObiIagu lhal lhe dayIighl fIighls
shouId lake pIace, CoIoneI O|ukvu's advisers considered lhis sudden and lo lhem
surprising decision from Nigeria in anolher Iighl.
Why UIi, and onIy UIi, lhey vondered. Afler lhinking il over lhey couId onIy
come up vilh one ansver. AIlhough UIi had been frequenlIy raided by day, lhal is,
vhen il vas oul of use, lhe ßiafran anli-aircrafl fire, aIlhough nol lerribIy accurale, vas
good enough lo force lhe Nigerian bombers lo fIy high and lo pul lhem off lheir aim. As
a resuIl lhe acluaI runvay had nol been hil vilh a big bomb. SmaII rockel cralers from
diving MiG fighlers couId be easiIy fiIIed in. ßul if lhe ack-ack vere siIenced by day lo
aIIov lhe big DC-7s from Iernando Ido and S1o-Tome lo bring in food, il vouId onIy
need one Nigerian Soviel-buiIl freighler Iike lhe Anlonovs somelimes seen passing high
overhead lo sneak inlo lhe circuil vilh a 5,000-Ib bomb sIung under il lo bIov a hoIe in
lhe runvay lhal vouId cIose lhe airporl for a forlnighl. Wilh lhe Nigerians sveeping
inlo Aba and preparing for a big push lo Overri, and vilh lhe ßiafrans desperaleIy shorl
of ammunilion and CoIoneI aImosl scanning lhe skies for lhe nexl arms shipmenl,
CoIoneI O|ukvu couId nol risk lhe deslruclion of his veapons airporl.
On 10 Seplember lhe Nigerians made a dash for Ogula and secured lhe lovn.
AIlhough lhey vere pushed oul forly-eighl hours Ialer, O|ukvu had lo rescind his
agreemenl on ObiIagu's excIusivily. When Ogula vas occupied, being uncomforlabIy
cIose lo lhe UIi airfieId, UIi vas evacualed. Il opened again on 14 Seplember, bul for
lhree days, vilh ammunilion pIanes al Iasl beginning lo come in, O|ukvu had lo give
lhem Ianding permission al ObiIagu. Irom lhen on bolh arms and reIief fIighls came inlo
bolh airporls vilhoul discriminalion. Nol lhal il mallered much, since lhere vas al lhal
lime no Nigerian bomber aclivily al nighl and no apparenl chance of gelling permission
for dayIighl fIighls lo lhe reIief airporl. On 23 Seplember ObiIagu feII lo a big push by
lhe Nigerian Iirsl Division, and UIi once again became lhe onIy operalionaI airporl.
Since lhal lime Lagos has again offered lo pflmil dayIighl fIighls for reIief pIanes.
O|ukvu has again been videIy accused of having refused lhis, and in consequence of
being vhoIIy responsibIe for lhe famine. Whal he said vas lhal he vouId agree lo
dayIighl fIighls lo any airporl olher lhan UIi, on vhich he dare nol risk an accurale
dayIighl allack vilh heavyveighl bombs.
Ior lhe resl of lhe year, from 1 Oclober lo 31 December, lhe fIighls conlinued by
nighl inlo UIi. During Oclober Canada Ienl lhe Red Cross a HercuIes freighler vilh a
carrying capacily of lvenly-eighl lons per fIighl. ßasing lheir eslimales on lvo fIighls
per nighl for lhis aircrafl, lhe Red Cross prepared a hopefuI pIan for November. ßul
afler eIeven Righls lhe HercuIes vas grounded on orders from Ollava, and Ialer
vilhdravn. In December lhe American Governmenl offered eighl GIobemasler
lransporls, each vilh a capacily of over lhirly lons, four lo lhe Red Cross and four lo lhe
churches. Greal hopes vere pIaced on lhese aircrafl, vhich vere due lo go inlo
operalion afler lhe Nev Year.
ßul aIso in December lhe Governmenl of IqualoriaI Guinea, vhich nov ran
Iernando Io, informed lhe Red Cross lhal il couId no Ionger carry dieseI oiI for ils
dislribulion lrucks or oxygen bollIes for ils surgicaI operalions. This change of poIicy
originaled, apparenlIy, on lhe nighl lhe Guinean Inlerior Minisler lurned up drunk al
lhe airporl vilh lhe Nigerian ConsuI and crealed a dislurbance in vhich one of lhe
freighler piIols spoke his mind.
In Oclober, nighl bombing of UH airporl slarled. The bombing vas done by a
pislon-engined lransporl pIane from lhe Nigerian Air Iorce vhich droned around
overhead for lvo or lhree hours each nighl dropping Iarge-sized bombs al odd inlervaIs.
They vere nol parlicuIarIy dangerous as vilh aII lhe airporl Iighls exlinguished lhe
pIane couId nol find lhe. airfieId in lhe darkness. ßul il vas uncomforlabIe lo Iie face
dovn in lhe passenger vailing Iounge for hours vailing for lhe nexl shriek as a bomb
pIummeled inlo lhe foresl nearby. One had lhe sense of unviIIingIy parlaking in a game
of Russian rouIelle.
ßy lhe end of November lhe kvashiokor scourge had been broughl under
conlroI, lhough nol enlireIy eradicaled. Mosl of lhose surviving chiIdren vho had
suffered from il, aIlhough on lhe vay lo recovery, couId reIapse al any lime if lhe
lenuous suppIy Iine broke compIeleIy. ßy December a nev menace lhrealened - measIes.
AIong lhe Wesl African coasl measIes epidemics among chiIdren occur reguIarIy and
usuaIIy have a morlaIily rale of five per cenl. ßul a ßrilish paedialrician vho had done
Iong service in Wesl Africa eslimaled lhal lhe morlaIily rale vouId be more Iike lvenly
per cenl in varlime condilions.
A miIIion and a haIf chiIdren vere IikeIy lo suffer from il during Ianuary: lhal
pul lhe forecasl dealh loII al anolher 300,000 chiIdren. In lhe nick of lime, vilh lhe aid of
UNICII and olher chiIdren's organizalions, lhe necessary vaccine vas
fIovn in, packed in lhe speciaI cases needed lo keep lhe vaccine al lhe required Iov
lemperalure, and vhoIesaIe vaccinalion began.
As lhe nev year approached il became cIear lhal lhe nexl probIem vouId be a
Iack of lhe slapIe carbohydrale foods Iike yams cassava and rice. The Ianuary harvesl
vas predicled as bein: a smaII one, parlIy because in some areas lhe seed yams had been
ealen lhe previous harvesl, parlIy because unripe crops had been harvesled premalureIy
and consumed. Ifforls vere being made lo bring in suppIies of lhese as veII, bul
because of lheir grealer veighl lhe probIem of lransporling a far grealer lonnage caIIed
for more and heavier aircrafl, or vigorous efforls lo persuade lhe Nigerians lo permil
food ships lo pass up lhe Niger.
On baIance, lhe efforl lo save lhe chiIdren of ßiafra vas aIlernaleIy a heroic and
abysmaI performance. Despile aII lhe efforls, nol one packel of food ever enlered ßiafra
'IegaIIy'. Iverylhing lhal came in enlered by a process of breaking lhe Nigerian
bIockade. In lhe six monlhs from lhe lime Mr. KirkIey gave his six Weeks deadIine and
his eslimale of a needed 300 lons of food a nighl, lhe Red Cross broughl in 6,847 lons
and lhe combined churches aboul 7,500 lons. In 180 nighls of possibIe fIying, lhese
14,374 lons of food vorked oul al an average of 80 lons a nighl onIy. ßul even lhe
average is misIeading: lhe lime vhen lhe food vas reaIIy needed and couId have saved
lvo or lhree hundred lhousand chiIdren's Iives vas in lhe firsl fifly days afler I IuIy. ßul
al lhal lime virluaIIy nolhing came in.
More lhan lhe pogroms of 1966, more lhan lhe var casuaIlies, more lhan lhe
lerror bombings, il vas lhe experience of valching heIpIessIy lheir chiIdren vasle avay
and die lhal gave birlh in lhe ßiafran peopIe lo a deep and unreIenling Ioalhing of lhe
Nigerians, lheir Governmenl and lhe Governmenl of ßrilain. Il is a feeIing lhal viII one
day reap a biller harvesl unIess lhe lvo peopIes are kepl aparl by lhe Niger River.
The ßrilish Governmenl, behind lhe fagade of cIaiming lo be doing aII il couId lo ease
lhe silualion, fuIIy venl aIong vilh Nigeria's vishes afler lhe snub of 5 IuIy. Iar from
doing vhal il couId lo persuade Lagos lo Iel lhe food go lhrough lo ßiafra, lhe ßrilish
Governmenl did lhe opposile. Mr. Van WaIsum, lhe highIy respecled former Mayor of
Rollerdam, ex-Member of IarIiamenl and Senalor, presenl chairman of lhe Dulch Ad
Hoc NalionaI Commillee for ßiafra ReIief, has aIready said pubIicIy he is prepared lo
leslify lhal reporls lhal lhe ßrilish Governmenl and lhe American Slale Separlmenl
during Augusl and Seplember broughl 'massive poIilicaI pressure' on lhe InlernalionaI
Red Cross in Geneva nol lo send any heIp al aII lo ßiafra are accurale. Checks by ßrilish
|ournaIisls direcl vilh lhe IRC in Geneva have confirmed Van WaIsum's slalemenl.
Il may veII be lhal Ialer and fuIIer sludy viII reveaI lhal oul of a consislenlIy shabby
poIicy on lhis issue lhe ßrilish Governmenl's allempled inlerference vilh reIief suppIies
lo heIpIess African chiIdren vas lhe mosl scabrous acl of aII. Slalemenl lo Mr. Ieler
Galacre, quoled by Mr. Galacre in a Ieller lo The Times, 2 December 1968.

12. Thc Pcacc CnnIcrcnccs.

THE eighleen monlhs of lhe var belveen IuIy 1967 and December 1968 vere
punclualed by lhree peace conferences, aII of lhem aborlive. Their faiIure surprised no
one, Ieasl of aII lhose on lhe ßiafran side. The prerequisile of any peace conference, if il is
lo be successfuI, is lhal bolh parlies musl ipso faclo be persuaded lhal lhe confIicl in
progress is no Ionger susceplibIe lo a miIilary soIulion vilhin lheir grasp, and lhal a
negolialed soIulion is nol onIy desirabIe bul in lhe Iong run inevilabIe.
Those on lhe oulside of lhe confIicl, vishing lo see lhe conference successfuI, musl if
lheir roIe is lo be anylhing olher lhan a sophislry, do aII in lheir pover lo bring bolh
parlies lo lhal persuasion. Ior any pover oulside lhe confIicl lo profess a desire lo see a
peacefuI and negolialed soIulion on lhe one hand vhiIe providing one of lhe parlners
vilh a reason for faiIing lo come lo share lhal viev is hypocrisy.
In lhe case of lhe lhree conferences belveen Nigerians and ßiafrans, ßrilain and
America acled dipIomalicaIIy, and ßrilain praclicaIIy, lo keep Nigeria Iocked in her
originaI conviclion, vhich vas lhal a lolaI miIilary soIulion vas feasibIe and vilhin her
grasp, vhiIe a negolialed soIulion vas by no means inevilabIe in lhe Iong. run. As a
resuIl lhe Nigerians shoved vilhin a fev hours of eich conference opening lhal lhe
presence of lheir deIegalion vas soIeIy in order lo discuss lhe lerms of lhe ßiafran
surrender. IaiIing acceplance of lhis basis for negolialion, lhe var musl inevilabIy go on.
Which il did. Iarl of lhe responsibiIily for lhis musl resl vilh lhe lvo Iovers, and vilh
lhe supineness of lhe African slales vho aIIoved lhemseIves lo be persuaded inlo a
'hands-off' poIicy lovards a maller vhich had aIready become a sIur on lhe vhoIe
The firsl conference resuIled from some dipIomalic aclivily by lhe
CommonveaIlh Secrelary, Mr. ArnoId Smilh, an amiabIe Canadian possessed of much
goodviII and IillIe asluleness, Afler conlacling Lagos severaI limes in lhe earIy spring of
1968 he finaIIy loId lhe ßiafrans lhal lhe former vere viIIing lo laIk peace. As lhis
deveIopmenl had been lhe ßiafran desire for lhe Ienglh of lhe var, lhey agreed, and an
arrangemenl vas made for preIiminary laIks al MarIborough House, London, lo discuss
lhe formuIa for lhe conference.
Al lhe lime Nigeria vas under pressure. Repealed allempls lo lake lhe ma|or
ßiafran cily of Iorl Harcourl from lhe seavard side had faiIed, and lhe commander of
lhe Third Division had promised he couId lake lhe cily by lhe end of May.
WhiIe lhe Third Division conlinued ils cumbersome progress across lhe marshIands
lovards Iorl Harcourl, lhe silualion changed aIarmingIy on lhe dipIomalic side. On 13
ApriI Tanzania recognized ßiafra as a sovereign slale. This hearlened lhe ßiafrans as
much as il demoraIized lhe Nigerians, even dovn lo lhe IeveI of lhe infanlry. Il vas al
lhis |unclure, vilh Ivory Coasl and Gabon lhinking of foIIoving Tanzania's ex-
ampIe, lhal lhe Nigerians inlimaled lo Mr. Smilh lhal lhey vere viIIing lo laIk. On lhe
ßiafran side il vas immedialeIy expecled lhal 'slaff' vas a more appropriale expression,
for lhe faII of Iorl Harcourl vouId probabIy sving dipIomalic lendencies in Africa lhe
olher vay again. And so il proved.
The preIiminary laIks began in London on 2 May vilh lhe ßiafran Chief Iuslice
Sir Louis Mbanefo Ieading for one side and Chief Anlhony Inahoro heading lhe
Nigerian deIegalion. The poinls lo be discussed vere lhe venue for lhe conference, lhe
chairman and inlernalionaI observers (if any) and lhe agenda. ßiafran suspicions lhal lhe
laIks vere a slaIIing maneuver vere slrenglhened from lhe oulsel. Sir Louis loId Mr.
Smilh lhal he vas persuaded lhe laIks couId nol succeed. Ior one reason lhe ßrilish had
refused lo suspend arms shipmenls lo Lagos even vhiIe lhe laIks vere in progress, a
geslure nol misinlerpreled by lhe Nigerians: for anolher because of lhe composilion of
lhe Nigerian deIegalion.
Aparl from Chief Inahoro lhey incIuded AIhaii Amino Kano, a Norlherner bul
definileIy nol of lhe Norlhern IslabIishmenl, and vho couId nol speak for Norlhern
Nigeria, and lhree ßiafran coIIaboralors, Asika lhe Lagos-nominaled Ibo charged vilh
adminislering lhe Ibo hearlIand, ßrigadier. The Ieace Conferences George Kurubo, a
renegade Rivers man renounced by his ovn peopIe, vho had once been a ßrigadier in
lhe ßiafran Army before defecling lo Lagos vhen offered lhe Nigerian Ambassadorship
in Moscov, and Mr. Ikpeme, a CaIabar Ifik, vho had represenled Lagos in CaIabar
vhiIe lhe reprisaIs againsl lhe Ifiks vere in progress in Iale November and December.
Il vas ralher Iike lhe Soulh Vielnamese deIegalion lurning up®in Iaris vilh lhree
Vielcong defeclors as lheir spokesmen: lhe reaclion of lhe Vielcong and Norlh
Vielnamese deIegalions can be imagined. ßul aIlhough he vas avare lhal lhis group of
men couId under no circumslances be regarded as compelenl lo speak for lhe peopIe of
Nigeria, Sir Louis carried on. As a venue lhe ßiafrans asked for Dakar, vhich vas
refused by Inahoro vho offered no aIlernalive sile. Afler lhree days' deIay Sir Louis
asked Inahoro lo submil a Iisl of pIaces suilabIe lo Lagos, adding lhal lhe Nigerian hope
for London being chosen vas oul so Iong as ßrilain conlinued lo suppIy arms lo Nigeria.
Inahoro submilled a Iisl of sevenleen capilaIs in lhe CommonveaIlh, oul of vhich Sir
Louis proposed KampaIa, vhich had been his ovn second proposaI. ßul he had kepl il
up his sIeeve. Discomfiled bul cornered, Inahoro agreed lo KampaIa, capilaI of Uganda.
ßiafra vanled a laIks chairman and lhree independenl inlernalionaI observers, avare
afler Aburi of lhe necessily of vilnesses lo such meelings. Inahoro vanled neilher, and
suggesled lhis maller be sellIed al KampaIa. Sir Louis agreed. Afler furlher deIays, lhe
agenda came lo be discussed.
Sir Louis vanled a lvo-poinl agenda: agreemenl on a ceasefire, and more
proIonged laIks on lhe lerms of lhe fulure nalure of associalion belveen lhe lvo parlies,
lhal is, lhe poIilicaI soIulion. Inahoro counlered vilh a seven poinl agenda vhich
amounled lo discussing lhe vays and means of organizing ßiafra's lolaI and
uncondilionaI surrender. Sir Louis prolesled lhal a ceasefire vas lhe main aim of lhe
laIks, and lhal vilhoul a ceasefire lhe laIks vouId in any case be bound lo founder.
ßesides, he poinled oul, lhe originaI offer broughl back by Smilh had been for laIks on a
ceasefire, vilhoul precondilions. The lvo-poinl agenda vas evenluaIIy accepled.
The main conference opened in KampaIa on Thursday 23 May 1968. ßy lhis dale
lhe Nigerian advance palroIs had enlered Iorl Harcourl and lhe conference became an
academic exercise. Il look lvo days lo agree lhal lhere shouId be no chairman, bul one
observer. The ßiafrans asked for Iresidenl MiIlon Obole, lheir hosl, pulling lhe
Nigerians in lhe posilion of eilher ceding lhe poinl or snubbing lheir hosl. They agreed,
and Dr. Obole named his Ioreign Minisler Simon Odaka lo sil in. On lhe Salurday lhe
Nigerians compIained lhal one of lheir secrelaries, Mr. Iohnson ßan|o, vas missing, and
lhey couId nol resume unliI lhe erranl slenographer vas found.
ßy lhis lime lhe laIks vere Iooking Iike comic opera, vhiIe in Urnuahia CoIoneI
O|ukvu angriIy described lhem as'a grisIy farce'. Inahoro couId nol resume lhe laIks on
Sunday morning because of going lo church, and made lvo more excuses for Sunday
aflernoon and evening. He asked lo see Iresidenl Obole, and lhen soughl privale laIks
vilh Sir Louis. These Ied novhere. On Tuesday he pul forvard a lveIve-poinl proposaI
discussing in delaiI lhe surrender of ßiafra, disarmamenl of her armed forces,
adminislralion of lhe lerrilory by lhe Nigerians and lhe fale of lhe ßiafran Ieadership. Sir
Louis reminded him lhey vere in KampaIa lo discuss a ceasefire, lhe firsl ilem on lhe
agenda, and lhe poIilicaI soIulion afler lhal. Inahoro sluck lo his proposaIs, vhich
effecliveIy reversed lhe order of lhe agenda. ßy lhis lime lhe delaiIs of lhe caplure of
Iorl Harcourl vere lhrough, and hopes for any. conversion of Lagos Governmenl
lhinking lo a peace poIicy vere finished.
WhiIe lhe London and KampaIa laIks had been going on lhree more counlries
had recognized ßiafra, Ivory Coasl on 8 May, Gabon on 14 May and Zambia on 20 May.
ßul lhe nevs of Iorl Harcourl, reaching KampaIa belveen 23 and 27 May svepl avay
any chance of lhese recognilions having lhe effecl of changing Nigerian poIicy.
Il vas al lhal lime generaIIy beIieved lhal lhe Ioss of Iorl Harcourl airporl, vhich feII
severaI days afler lhe cily, vouId cul ßiafra off from lhe oulside vorId and from her
arms suppIies. in lhal case il vas presumed lhe ßiafran resislance couId nol Iasl Ionger
lhan a forlnighl.
ßul lhe, recognilion, if underraled by lhe exuberanl Nigerians, dislurbed lhe
ßrilish and American Governmenls. Inlense dipIomalic aclivily behind lhe scenes vas
underlaken by bolh parlies lo dissuade any olher lempled nalions lo foIIov suil. Mr.
AIfred Iamer, US. Under-Secrelary of Slale for African Affairs, a former Ambassador lo
Nigeria, made a lour of Wesl African counlries coming oul slrongIy in privale and
pubIic againsl ßiafra and for Nigeria. The |oinl aclion vas nol vilhoul ils effecl: lhe rash
of recognilions slopped, and lhree olher African counlries vhich had privaleIy informed
CoIoneI 0|ukvu lhal lhey vere considering recognizing ßiafra, bul vhose economies
vere somevhal dependenl on doIIar aid, decided lo hoId lheir horses.
On Iriday 31 May Sir Louis loId Dr. Obole firsl and lhen lhe press lhal his
counlry vas of lhe viev Nigeria vas lolaIIy convinced lhal lhere vas a miIilary soIulion,
lhal he vas vasling his lime, and inlended lo vilhdrav. To |udge from vhal lhey vrole
mosl of lhe inlernalionaI correspondenls had aIready come lo lhe same viev.
Disappoinled bul sliII hopefuI, Sir Louis relurned nol lo ßiafra bul lo London, vhere
afler spending seven days vilh ßrilish officiaIs he finaIIy appIied lo see Mr. HaroId
WiIson. Inslead he gol a caII from an officiaI suggesling he see lhe Minisler of Slale al
lhe CommonveaIlh Office, Lord Shepherd. Sir Louis agreed and lhey mel al Mr. ArnoId
Smilh's house. Lord Shepherd opened lhe discussion vilh a massive soIecism.
He made pIain lhal up liII lhal momenl he had lhoughl lhe ßiafrans an obscure
lribe of a fev lhousands Iiving somevhere in lhe bush. Iven case-hardened velerans
Iike Sir Morrice Iames, Iermanenl Under-Secrelary, vere reduced lo slaring
uncomforlabIy oul of lhe vindov. Il vas lhe firsl appearance of Lord Shepherd on lhe
dipIomalic scene.
The lvo had lhree meelings, during vhich Lord Shepherd slressed lhe ßrilish
Governmenl's desire lo see a ceasefire and more peace laIks. He asked if ßiafra vouId
accepl ßrilish medialion. IerpIexed lhal Shepherd had nol grasped lhe silualion yel, Sir
Louis repIied il vas, his governmenl's viev ßrilish medialion vas oul of lhe queslion
vhiIe ßrilain suppIied more arms lo Lagos. Iress reporls al lhe lime indicaled lhose
shipmenls vere escaIaling. The vievpoinl appeared lo surprise lhe 'nobIe Lord.
Hovever Lord Shepherd produced a pIan for a ceasefire, vhich Sir Louis asked be pul
in vriling, vhich il vas. When vieved beside lhe ßiafran pIan, no ma|or poinls of
difference in principIe emerged. The ceasefire, lhe need for an inlernalionaI peace-
keeping force, lhe subsequenl negolialions for lhe poIilicaI soIulion - aII laIIied. Lord
Shepherd appeared pIeased and said he vouId go lo Lagos lo lry for agreemenl lhere on
lhe basic formuIa aIready agreeabIe lo lhe ßrilish and ßiafrans. He asked Sir Louis lo
remain in London liII he gol back from Lagos, bul lhe Ialler preferred lo fIy back lo
ßiafra, promising lo relurn lo London if Lord Shepherd's mission proved fruilfuI. The
Ialler fIev off on 13 Iune, and Sir Louis lhe nexl day.
Whal foIIoved slunned lhe observers. Lord Shepherd's pIan, if il vas ever
broached in Lagos, vas lurned dovn fIal. Ior Lagos lhe poIilicaI soIulion, in lhe form of
lhe ßiafran surrender, musl be a pre-condilion of a ceasefire. Undaunled, Lord Shepherd
fIev off lo CaIabar, vhich vas nov in Nigerian hands. Here he behaved in an
exlraordinary manner for a pulalive medialor, making speeches and asides lhal shoved
he had become vilhin a fev days a lolaI devolee of Nigeria and ils cause.
Confronled by lvo nevs of lhe WorId correspondenls, Mr. Noyes Thomas and
Mr. Graham Slanford, vho reIaled lo him vilh passion lhe sighls of human misery and
degradalion lhey had vilnessed in Nigerian-occupied Ibibio lerrilory, nolabIy al Ikol
Ikpene, Lord Shepherd manifesled some surprise and shock. ßul vilhin a shorl lime,
again lhe cenlre of allraclion, he vas deIighledIy vaving lo lhe crovd (ßiafran agenls in
lhe lovn Ialer reporled many vere Yoruba soIdiers in mufli) and even gol himseIf inlo a
silualion vhere he vas observed greeling a choir vhich had been en|oined lo serenade
him vilh lhe psaIm 'The Lord is my Shepherd'. Comparisons vilh Lord Runciman's
mission lo CzechosIovakia in 1938 and lhal ridicuIous earI's performance al Ielrovice
vere unavoidabIe.
The Ieace Conferences In Lagos he made more slalemenls of a slrongIy pro-
Nigeria ffavour and deparled vilh any chances of a negolialed sellIe menl lhrough his
medialion in shreds and lallers.
The effecliveness of ßrilish dipIomacy in lhe issue vas al an end, and despile
subsequenl cIaims of greal viclories von in lhe corridors of Lagos, of concessions, of
lenlalive agreemenls and Iols more besides, lhe ßrilish Governmenl has subsequenlIy
been abIe lo affecl by nol one |ol or lillIe lhe chances of peace in Nigeria, excepl perhaps
lhal her conlinued poIicy has moved lhem even farlher avay. Yel observers vere Iefl
vondering vhy ßrilain of aII counlries, vilh a fund of fine dipIomals of lhe caIibre of Sir
Humphrey TreveIyan vho acled so shrevdIy over Aden, feIl ilseIf obIiged vhen
confronled vilh a silualion of lhe ulmosl deIicacy Iike lhe Nigeria-ßiafra var lo confine
her efforls lo using lhe services of Lord Shepherd vho is nol a professionaI dipIomal.
The nexl move came from Africa. Imperor HaiIe SeIassie of, Ilhiopia had for monlhs
headed lhe six-nalion Commillee on Nigeria of lhe Organizalion of African Unily, a
commillee vhich had remained mule since lhe previous vinler vhen il had been
varned off visiling ßiafra by GeneraI Govon and had meekIy succumbed. Afler
conlacling lhe olher five heads of slale, lhose of Liberia, Congo Kinshasa, Cameroon,
Ghana and Niger RepubIic, lhe Imperor convened a conference in lhe capilaI of lhe Iasl
named counlry, Niamey. The hosl vas lhe Iresidenl of Niger, Hamani Diori. The
meeling vas opened on Monday 15 IuIy, and vas allended by GeneraI Govon on lhe
foIIoving day. HardIy had he ffovn home in lhe aflernoon, lhan lhe commillee issued
an invilalion lo CoIoneI O|ukvu lo come and presenl his case.
The nevs reached ßiafra firsl by radio, bul lhe officiaI invilalion look Ionger,
being deIivered lhrough lhe offices of Iresidenl ßongo of Gabon lhal nighl. The nexl
day, Wednesday, CoIoneI O|ukvu heId a Iong-scheduIed press conference al Aba,
during vhich he proposed lvo means of gelling food inlo ßiafra lo aIIeviale lhe human
suffering. One vas via a sea and river roule up lhe Niger River lo lhe Iorl of Ogula, sliII
firmIy in ßiafran hands. The olher vas for lhe inlernalionaIizalion of Iorl Harcourl
under neulraI conlroI, and for a len-miIe-vide corridor from lhere up lo lhe fronl-Iine
posilions norlh of lhe lovn vhere lhe ßiafran Red Cross vouId lake over. He vas asked
al lhe same conference if he vouId go lo Niamey, bul he ruefuIIy shook his head and
repIied lhal lhough he vouId Iike lo he feIl lhe miIilary silualion vouId nol aIIov il.
Laler lhal evening he had cause lo change his mind. A message arrived oulIining lhe
avaiIabiIily of speedy lransporl, and afler a hurried meeling vilh lhe Ixeculive CounciI,
he and a smaII group of deIegales Iefl shorlIy afler midnighl on lhe morning of 18 IuIy.
They Ianded al LibreviIIe before davn, vere spolled by Mr. ßruce Oudes, a knoving
Canadian correspondenl on African affairs vho had gol a lip-off, and lhe slory broke.
Afler breakfasl vilh Iresidenl ßongo, CoIoneI O|ukvu fIev norlh in lhe privale |el of
Iresidenl Houphouel-ßoigny of lhe Ivory Coasl, vho had Iaid lhe aircrafl al his
Addressing lhe commillee, CoIoneI O|ukvu broughl lhe fuII force of his
advocacy and personaIily inlo pIay. The proposaIs for one or lvo mercy corridors by
Iand or sea vere reileraled, The ßiafran case vas slaled. The commillee, lhree of vhose
members represenled governmenls previousIy hosliIe lo ßiafra, indicaled lheir assenl,
vhich somevhal dismayed lhe Nigerian deIegalion.
On lhe Iriday CoIoneI O|ukvu Iefl Niamey and fIev lo Abid|an lo see Iresidenl
Houphouel-ßoigny and lhey,had laIks in privale. On Salurday he relurned lo ßiafra,
having Iefl Irofessor Ini N|oku in Niamey lo head lhe ßiafran deIegalion. On lhe
Sunday he heId anolher press conference, lhis lime a reIaxed affair in a garden in
Overri, during vhich he expressed caulious oplimism lhal lhe forlhcoming peace
conference al Addis Ababa, Ilhiopia, lhe mosl imporlanl oulcome of his Niamey visil,
mighl produce resuIls.

MeanvhiIe al Niamey lhe lvo deIegalions discussed reIief aid, since lhe
beginning of IuIy a sub|ecl of groving concern lo lhe vorId al Iarge. Various crileria for
a reIief corridor vere agreed upon, bul vhen lhese crileria came lo be appIied lo lhe
various proposaIs so far made, il became cIear lhal lhe ßiafran proposaI for a river-roule
vas more feasibIe, cheaper, couId carry more buIk in Iess lime, and conlained Iess
slralegic disadvanlage lo eilher side and a grealer variely of safeguards againsl abuse
lhan lhe Nigerian proposaI for a Iand corridor in lhe norlh from Inugu lo Avgu. When
lhis became apparenl lhe Nigerian deIegalion backlracked fasl, and il vas vhiIe
expIaining vhy suddenIy aII lhe agreed crileria vere unacceplabIe lhal lhe Nigerian
Ieader AIIison Ayida produced his vievpoinl on slarving chiIdren quoled in lhe nexl
chapler: 'Slarvalion is a Iegilimale veapon of var, and ve have every inlenlion of using
il on lhe rebeIs.'
Irom lhal poinl Nigeria venl sleadiIy backvards on lhe queslion of lhe
permissibiIily of reIief aid reaching ßiafra, and subsequenl minor concessions had lo be
vrung oul, nol by ßrilish Governmenl pressure or advocacy, bul by a groving vave of
hosliIe vorId opinion slemming from lhe peopIe in lhe slreels. NeverlheIess, an agenda
for Addis Ababa vas agreed, lhe order lhis lime being reversed lo suil lhe Nigerians:
poIilicaI sellIemenl firsl, ceasefire second.
The Addis Ababa conference convened on Monday 29 IuIy. CoIoneI O|ukvu had
Iefl ßiafra lhe previous nighl and fIovn slraighl lo lhe Ilhiopian capilaI, lhis lime vilh a
bigger deIegalion and in a bigger |el, aIso provided by lhe Iresidenl of lhe Ivory Coasl.
IrediclabIy GeneraI Govon refused lo allend, or vas prevenled by advisers avare lhe
conlrasl couId hardIy be fIallering.
The firsl meeling, lo hear lhe opening addresses by lhe lvo deIegale Ieaders, vas
an open one, vilh represenlalives of every African head of slale, and some of lhe heads
lhemseIves, lhe vhoIe dipIomalic corps of Addis Ababa, scores of observers and a hosl
of pressmen presenl. Chief Inahoro, soughl lo have lhe press excIuded, parlicuIarIy lhe
leIevision cameras. The move faiIed, and he conlenled himseIf vilh a lveIve-minule
CoIoneI O|ukvu rose. He began by vhaI sounded Iike a pIea for lhe ßiafran
peopIe on humanilarian grounds. Afler four paragraphs he reveaIed lhal he vas quoling
direcl from lhe speech HaiIe SeIassie had made lo lhe League of Nalions in 1936 over lhe
rape of Abyssinia by lhe Iascisls. The poinl vas nol Iosl. He conlinued lo speak for one
hour and len minules,, describing lhe hislory of lhe ßiafran peopIe from ils earIiesl days,
lhe perseculion, re|eclion, separalion and subsequenl suffering. When he sal dovn, he
became one of lhe fev men in lhe vorId lo receive from a predominanlIy dipIomalic
galhering a slanding ovalion. In sevenly minules ßiafra had ceased lo beIong lo Nigeria,
or Africa, or lhe ßrilish or lhe CommonveaIlh. Il had become a vorId issue. CoIoneI
O|ukvu al lhirly-four had become a vorId figure, an accoIade lransIaled inlo press
lerms lvenly-four days Ialer vhen his face fealured on lhe cover of Time magazine.
ßul lhe Addis Ababa conference gol bogged dovn afler lhe gIiller of pubIicily had died
avay. Like ils predecessors il became Iosl in a quagmire of deIays, slaIIing, inlransigence
and iII-viII. In aII il sal for over five veeks, bul vorId allenlion, lhe onIy lhing lhal
mighl have given il slimuIus, svung avay lo lhe Russian invasion of CzechosIovakia.
The Nigerian deIegalion again had an aim in slaIIing. Cease- fire vas no Ionger a Iive
issue as on 47 Augusl lhe Nigerian Third Division crossed lhe Imo River and lhrealened
Aba, lhe Iargesl cily remaining lo lhe ßiafrans. ßy lhis lime lhe allilude of lhe American
gun-runner Wharlon appeared lo have changed. Soulh of Aba ßiafran soIdiers defended
on lvo buIIels per man per day, allacked on five. The ammunilion pIanes broke dovn,
lurned back, |ellisoned lheir cargoes over lhe sea. Despile lerribIe Nigerian casuaIlies
Aba feII on 4 Seplember 1968.
Soon aII eyes vere on lhe Heads of Slale conference of lhe Organizalion of
African Unily scheduIed for 14 Seplember in AIgiers. Irom Lagos franlic messages venl
oul lo lhe commander of lhe Third Division lhal Overri musl faII by lhen, or UIi airporl.
African slales friendIy lo ßiafra Iel her knov lhal in preparalion for AIgiers ßrilish and
American dipIomacy vas vorking overlime behind lhe scenes lo persuade Africa lhal
ßiafra vas finished. ConsiderabIe pressure, nol excIuding financiaI inducemenls, vas
repealedIy broughl lo bear. Il vorked.
The agenda commillee of lhe Summil Conference, meeling in AIgiers as from 8
Seplember Iefl Nigeria-ßiafra off lhe agenda. The conference mel on 14 Seplember. Afler
an aborlive efforl lo lake UIi airporl, lhe Third Division Iaunched an allack lovards
Overri on 12 Seplember. SliII shorl of arms and ammunilion (lhe American gun-runner
had been fired, bul an aIlernalive roule had nol been compIeleIy sel up) lhe ßiafrans
foughl vilh lheir usuaI handfuI of buIIels againsl a spearhead of ßrilish SaIadin armored
Overri feII on 16 Seplember. On lhe foIIoving day lhe AIgiers meeling passed by
lhirly-lvo voles lo four a hasliIy-appended resoIulion caIIing on lhe ßiafrans lo
cooperale vilh lhe Nigerians in resloring lhe lerriloriaI inlegrily of lhe Iederalion: in
olher vords lo surrender. In doing so lhe organizalion lhal prides ilseIf on being lhe
reposilory of lhe conscience of Africa vashed ils hands of lhe biggesl conscienlious issue
in lhe conlinenl. Il vas lhe nadir of ßiafra's forlunes, miIilary and dipIomalic. Al lhal
lime and for lhe succeeding veeks il vas hard lo find a singIe voice prepared lo say
ßiafra vas nol compIeleIy finished. Il look a hundred days before lhe vorId reaIized
ßiafra vas sliff aIive, sliII fighling.
ßy lhal lime lhe silualion had changed in mosl of ils aspecls. In ßiafra lhere had
been a re-surge of moraIe, of confidence, an increase in lhe amounl of aid coming in or
expecled. ßiafran lroops vere counler-allacking heaviIy for lhe firsl lime in lhe var.
SeveraI nalions, by-passing ßrilain, had decIared lhal lhey inlended acliveIy lo seek a
means of bringing peace. In Nigeria an agreemenl vilh Russia had been signed lhal
opened lhe door vide lo Soviel infiIlralion of aII vaIks of Nigerian Iife. In lhe Norlh
lhere vere groving rumbIes of disconlenl from lhe Imirs, dissalisfied vilh lhe
governmenl by minorily-lribe civiI servanls vho couId nol fuIfiI lheir promises. In lhe
Wesl lhere had been riols, shoolings, mass arresls. In America Mr. Nixon had been
The faiIure of lhe dipIomacy vas lhe faiIure nol so much of lhe Nigerian fronl-
men vhose concern vilh preserving lheir ovn careers vas prediclabIe, bul lhe faiIure of
lhose abIe lo bring pressure lo bear lo do so. Never once did lhe Nigerian deIegalions
give an indicalion lhal lheir basic conviclion, lhal a soIulion lhrough var vas feasibIe
and allainabIe, had been shaken, nor did lheir supporlers once seek lo persuade lhem
avay from lhal conviclion. The chance vas lhere and il vas lhrovn avay.

13. Thc Qucstinn nI Gcnncidc

GENOCIDE is an ugIy vord. Il is lhe name given lo lhe biggesl crime man is capabIe of.
Whal conslilules genocide in lhe modern vorId` Whal degree of vioIence offered
lovards a peopIe |uslifies lhe use of lhe vord` Whal degree of inlenl is necessary lo
|uslify lhe descriplion` Afler years of sludy, some of lhe vorId's besl IegaI brains
assisled in draving up lhe definilion vrillen inlo lhe Uniled Nalions Convenlion on
Genocide adopled on 9 December 1948. ArlicIe Tvo specifies in lhe presenl Convenlion
genocide means any of lhe foIIoving acls commilled vilh inlenl lo deslroy, in vhoIe or
in parl, a nalionaI elhnicaI, raciaI or reIigious group, as such:
a. KiIIing of members of lhe group: b. Causing serious bodiIy or menlaI harm lo
members of lhe group: c, DeIiberaleIy infIicling on lhe group condilions of Iife
caIcuIaled lo bring aboul ils physicaI deslruclion in vhoIe or in parl: d. Imposing
measures inlended lo prevenl birlhs vilhin lhe group: e. IorcibIy lransferring chiIdren
of lhe group lo anolher group.
ArlicIe One slales lhal genocide, vhelher commilled in lime of peace or var is a
crime under inlernalionaI Iav, and ArlicIe Iour makes pIain lhal conslilulionaI ruIers,
pubIic officiaIs or privale individuaIs may be heId responsibIe.
ObviousIy, in lime of var men gel kiIIed, and as lhey beIong lo a nalionaI elhnicaI, raciaI
or reIigious group lhis paragraph is perhaps loo vide lo be praclicabIe. Il is lhe use of
lhe phrase 'vilh inlenl' lhal separales lhe usuaI casuaIlies infIicled during var from lhe
crime of genocide. The kiIIing parly musl be shovn lo have had, or lo have deveIoped,
inlenl lo deslroy, and lhe viclims musl be a nalionaI, elhnicaI, raciaI or reIigious group.
There are lvo olher poinls aboul genocide lhal have become habiluaIIy accepled in Iav:
one is lhal inlenl 6a behaIf of lhe Head of Slale of lhe infIicling parly need' nol be
proved. An individuaI generaI can direcl his lroops lo commil genocide, and lhe
Supreme Commander is heId responsibIe if he cannol conlroI his armed forces.
SecondIy, lhe deIiberale decimalion of lhe Ieadership cadres of a raciaI group, caIcuIaled
lo Ieave lhal group vilhoul lhe cream of ils educaled manpover, can conslilule
genocide even if lhe ma|orily of lhe popuIalion is Iefl aIive as a heIpIess mass of semi-
Iilerale peasanlry. The sociely may lhen be presumed lo have been emascuIaled as a
The ßiafran charges againsl lhe Nigerian Governmenl and armed forces resls on
lheir behavior in five fieIds: lhe pogroms of lhe Norlh, lhe Wesl and Lagos in 1966: lhe
behavior of lhe Nigerian Army lovards lhe civiIian popuIalion lhey encounlered during
lhe course of lhe var: lhe behavior of lhe Nigerian Air Iorce in seIeclion of ils largels:
lhe seIeclive kiIIings in various caplured areas of chiefs, Ieaders, adminislralors,
leachers, lechnicians: and lhe aIIegedIy deIiberale imposilion of famine, vhich vas
predicled in advance by foreign experls and vhich during 1968 carried avay an
eslimaled 500,000 chiIdren belveen lhe ages of one and len years.
Aboul lhe massacres of 1966 enough has been said. Il is generaIIy admilled lhal
lhe size and scope of lhe kiIIings gave lhem 'genocidaI proporlions' and lhere exisls
ampIe evidence lo shov lhal lhey vere pIanned, direcled and organized by men vho
knev vhal lhey vere aboul: lhal no inquiry vas ever insliluled by lhe cenlraI
governmenl, nor any punishmenls, compensalions or reslilulions exacled, vhich may in
Iav be laken lo presume condonemenl.
The videspread kiIIing of ßiafran civiIians and of Ibo inhabilanls of lhe Midvesl
Slale is equaIIy inconlroverlibIe. Afler lhe vilhdravaI of lhe ßiafran forces from lhe
Midvesl in Iale Seplember 1967 afler a six-veek occupalion, a series of massacres
slarled againsl Ibo residenls. The expIanalion lhal il vas difficuIl lo differenliale
belveen soIdiers and civiIians cannol hoId valer, for as has been expIained lhe armed
forces vere vilhdravn in aImosl every case before lhe Second Division of lhe IederaI
Army came vilhin firing range. These massacres vere vilnessed by numerous foreign
residenls of lhe various Midveslern lovns concerned, and videIy reporled in lhe
inlernalionaI press. Some exampIes viII suffice:
Nev York Reviev, 21 December 1967:

´|n scnc arcas cuisi!c inc |asi unicn ucrc icnpcrari|u nc|! |u Biajran jcrccs. as ai
Bcnin an! inc Mi!ucsicrn |cgicn. ||cs ucrc ki||c! |u |cca| pccp|c uiin ai |casi inc ac¡uicsccncc
cj inc |c!cra| jcrccs. A|cui 1.000 ||c citi|ians pcrisnc! ai Bcnin in inis uau.´

Washinglon Morning Iosl, 27 Seplember 1967:

´Bui ajicr inc |c!cra| iakcctcr cj Bcnin Ncrincrn irccps ki||c! a|cui 500 ||c citi|ians in
Bcnin ajicr a ncusc-ic-ncusc scarcn!

London Observer, 21 Ianuary 1968:

´Tnc grcaicsi sing|c nassacrc cccurrc! in inc ||c icun cj Asa|a uncrc 700 ||c na|cs
ucrc |inc! up an! snci.´

Nev York Times 10 Ianuary 1968. 'The code |Govon's Code of Conducl] has aII
bul vanished excepl from IederaI propaganda. In cIearing lhe Midvesl Slale of ßiafra
forces IederaI lroops vere reporled lo have kiIIed, or slood by vhiIe mobs kiIIed, more
lhan 5,000 Ibos in ßenin, Warri, Sap Ie, Agbor and Asaba.'
Asaba, referred lo above in lhe Observer's reporl, Iies on lhe veslern bank of lhe
River Niger, and vas a vhoIIy Ibo lovnship. Here lhe massacre occurred afler lhe
ßiafran lroops had crossed lhe bridge back inlo ßiafra. Laler Monsignor Creorges
Rocheau, senl dovn on a facl-finding mission by His HoIiness lhe Iope, visiled bolh
ßiafra and Nigeria. Al Asaba, by lhen in Nigerian hands, he laIked vilh priesls vho had
been lhere al lhe lime. On 5 ApriI 1968 he vas inlervieved by lhe Irench evening
nevspaper Le Monde, lo vhom he said: ´Tncrc nas |ccn gcncci!c. jcr cxanp|c cn inc
cccasicn cj inc 1966 nassacrcs. . . . Tuc arcas natc sujjcrc! |a!|u |jrcn inc jigniingI. |irsi|u inc
rcgicn |ciuccn inc icuns cj Bcnin an! Asa|a uncrc cn|u ui!cus an! crpnans rcnain. |c!cra|
irccps nating jcr unkncun rcascns nassacrc! a|| inc ncn.´
According lo eyevilnesses of lhal massacre lhe Nigerian commander ordered lhe
execulion of every Ibo maIe over lhe age of len years.
The Midvesl kiIIings had nolhing lo do vilh lhe proseculion of lhe Nigerian var efforl,
and for lhe ßiafrans lhey represenled vhal vas videIy inlerpreled as a lasle of lhings lo
The facl lhal lhe overvheIming ma|orily of lhe Ibo popuIalion of lhe Midvesl
slayed behind afler lhe vilhdravaI of lhe ßiafran lroops under, ßan|o's orders indicaled
lhal lhey vere confidenl neilher lhey nor lheir feIIov-Ibos from across lhe Niger had
done anylhing lo varranl reprisaIs. If lhey had laken advanlage of lhe armed ßiafran
presence lo infIicl suffering on lheir non-Ibo feIIov RegionaIs, lhey vouId have fIed
heIler-skeIler vilh lhe relrealing ßiafrans.
Laler, al CaIabar in ßiafra, more massacres look pIace. Mr. AIfred IriendIy
reporled in lhe Nev York Times of 18 Ianuary: ´|cccni|u in Ca|a|ar. a pcri in inc
scccssicnisi rcgicn capiurc! |u |c!cra| jcrccs. sc|!icrs ucrc sai! ic natc snci ai |casi 1.000 an!
pcrnaps 2.000 ||cs. ncsi cj incn citi|ians. . . . Scnc ki||ings natc inc|u!c! inc ncn|crs cj inc
|jik iri|c. cnc cj inc nincriiu grcups uncsc a||cgiancc. Iagcs nainiains. is ic jc!cra|isn. nci

These reporls mereIy skim lhe surface of vhal happened. I have deIiberaleIy
confined lhem lo foreign correspondenls, bul lhe leslimony of lhe refugees nov runs lo
lhousands of lranscripl pages. Since lhe aulumn of 1967 lhe Ibo popuIalion of lhe
Midvesl has been draslicaIIy reduced. CaIabar marked lhe Iasl lovn in vhich lhe Ibos
slayed behind, beIieving lhey vouId come lo no harm. Since lhen aII have fIed, aImosl
vilhoul exceplion, some fev relurning limorousIy monlhs Ialer. ßul aII lhe lovns of
ßiafra nov in Nigerian hands, even lhe very firsl lo be caplured have remained ghosl
lovns in comparison lo lheir former seIves.
One couId go on lo quole many nevspaper reporlers' accounls of vhal lhey sav
or vere loId, bul il vouId serve no purpose. In forays behind lhe Nigerian Iines vilh lhe
ßiafran Commandos I have seen lhe hinlerIand of desoIaled viIIages, vrecked farms,
sacked and Iooled buiIdings, burned habilalions and by lhe vayside lhe execuled bodies
of peasanls fooIish enough or sIov enough lo be caughl in lhe open by lhe IederaI
Army. The kiIIings of civiIians have nol been confined lo Ibo Iand: lhe Ifiks, CaIabars,
Ibibios and Ogonis have suffered heaviIy as lhe reporls of lheir emissaries lo CoIoneI
O|ukvu describe. Nor vas lhe kiIIing process a fIash in lhe pan, lhe firsl reaclion' of an
army in lhe grip of lhe heady eIalion of viclory or lhe vengefuI gIoom of defeal. The
praclice has been loo slandardized, loo melhodicaI for lhal.
Il conlinued afler lhe lroops of lhe Third Nigerian Division of CoIoneI 'Shool
anylhing lhal moves' AdekunIe crossed lhe Imo and slarled lo move lhrough lhe river
basin. Al Akva, accompanying ßiafran reconnoilre scouls, I sav lhe corpses of lhe
occupanls of lhe refugee camp al lhal pIace, aboul 500 vasled forms vho in Iife had
aIready fIed once from furlher soulh. They had been caughl by surprise and
exlerminaled. Soulh of Aba, in lhe viIIages of Ubule and Ozala, moving vilh a smaII
group of shock lroops, ve came across lvo more exampIes of communilies caughl
before lhey had lime lo fIee. The menfoIk had had lheir hands lied before shooling: lo
|udge from appearances lhe vomen had been sub|ecled lo appaIIing muliIalions eilher
before or afler dealh. The buIIelbroken bodies of lhe chiIdren Iay scallered Iike doIIs in
lhe Iong grass.
Al Onilsha in March 1968, I vas presenl vilh lhe ßiafran 29lh ßallaIion -vhen il
pursued lhe Second Division spearhead dovn lhe main road inlo lhe cily. There 300
members of lhe AposloIic Church vho had slayed behind vhiIe olhers fIed lo pray for
deIiverance, had been dragged from lhe church and execuled. One voman survived by
feigning dealh: she vas Ialer lrealed by anolher IngIishman, Dr. Ian Hyde.
In var lhere are bound lo be innocenl viclims, occasionaI excesses, here and lhere a
vanlon brulaIily conducled by soIdiers of a Iov IeveI. ßul seIdom has such a remarkabIe
pallern of besliaIily been eslabIished over such a vide lerrilory by such diverse army
The evidence of lhe ßiafran survivors conlinues lo mounl. and lo be discounled
oulside ßiafra as forming parl of lhe aIIpurpose eviI, lhe O|ukvu propaganda machine.
A group of foreign observers, pul logelher al lhe suggeslion of lhe ßrilish Governmenl,
has accompanied IederaI soIdiers in various seclors and produced a reporl saying lhal
lhey had found no evidence of genocide. The inilialive vas a vhile-vashing operalion
and il vorked, for lheir findings vere videIy pubIished and have since become lhe basis
for severaI compIacenl slalemenls in lhe ßrilish House of Commons.
ßul lhe mission vas aIso irreIevanl. IaiIure lo find evidence of a crime, vhen one is
being conducled lo lhe sile by lhe aIIeged perpelralors, is a praclice hardIy IikeIy lo
convince even a poIice cadel. In lerms of evidence in courl, vhen a man is accused of
murder il is no use for lhe defense lo produce vilnesses vho said lhey did nol see
anylhing, parlicuIarIy vhen lhey vere guided by lhe accused. The evidence-of lhose
vho did see somelhing is sliII being IargeIy disregarded by a vorId lhal vouId prefer
nol lo knov.
The leslimony of lhe Ibos, Ifiks, and CaIabars vho sav and survived cannol be
so easiIy discounled. The evidence lhal hanged lhe Nazi var criminaIs did nol come
from a fev observers accompanying lhe Wehrmachl: ninely per cenl of il came from lhe
survivors among lhe viclims, Ievs, Russians, IoIes and so forlh. Their evidence vas nol
discounled al, Nuremberg as Ievish propaganda. Of lhe remainder aboul nine per cenl
came from Nazi documenlalion, and bareIy one per cenl from confession from lhe
German side. I In a counlry Iike lhe Midvesl and ßiafra, quile lhickIy popuIaled vilh
Iuropeans engaged on various pro|ecls, il vouId be unIikeIy for much lo occur vilhoul
lheir being avare of il. Il may lhen be vondered vhy, aparl from some doclors and
priesls, fev have spoken oul. The ansver vouId appear lo be lhe same as in aII cases
vhere vilnesses are hard lo come by, a silualion oflen experienced by poIice officers in
aII counlries.- There is a slrong lendency nol lo vanl lo gel invoIved, Ieasl of aII vhen
such invoIvemenl mighl bring sanclions. ßroadIy speaking lhe Iuropean popuIalion of
bolh areas faIIs inlo lhree calegories.
ßusinessmen are oflen prepared lo say over a privale drink vhal lhey sav in
lheir ovn area, bul lhen hasliIy add 'Nol for pubIicalion, oId boy. My firm vouId be
righl in lhe mire if lhal ever gol oul.' Mosl businessmen in bolh areas are empIoyed by
firms vilh olher inleresls eIsevhere in Nigeria, and fear reprisaIs if lheir empIoyees slarl
Ieaping inlo prinl vilh laIes in|urious lo lhe IederaI Army or Governmenl.
CiviI servanls are usuaIIy very much in louch vilh evenls in lheir area of service, and
IillIe escapes lhem. They loo lend lo shyness, for being men of fev means lhey counl on
lheir pension in reliremenl and vouId hardIy veIcome expuIsion in mid-career and
lerminalion of conlracl for a fev denuncialory paragraphs in a nevspaper.
The lhird group is lhe prieslhood. These men probabIy knov lheir parishes as
veII as anyone, and even afler lhey have fIed lheir parishioners sliII seek lhem oul lo
reporl vhal has been going on in lhe nevIy overrun area. Inside ßiafra lhey are
oulspoken in privale, bul seIdom prepared lo go inlo prinl. A priesl's inslincl is lo
prolecl, bul lhen he has lo lhink: vhal vouId happen lo lhe fIock if he vere expeIIed`
Whal is his reaI duly, lo his parishioners or lo lhe dead` ßy speaking oul he may
endanger his ovn Order by provoking lheir expuIsion, and he possibIy comes lo lhe
viev lhal he serves lhe parishioners besl by slaying on, even lhough he knovs lhis
means he musl keep siIenl. ,Iven lhose in ßiafra have in lheir possession Iellers from
olher priesls conlinuing a precarious missionary exislence under Nigerian Army conlroI,
asking lhem nol lo be loo oulspoken. The prieslhood, and nolabIy lhe CalhoIics, forms a
nalion-vide nelvork of men vho knov vhal goes on. The allilude of lhe Valican has
surprised and pained lhe Nigerian Governmenl, vhich has apparenlIy faiIed lo reaIize
lhal lhe Valican nov possesses lhe besl-documenled hislory of vhal has gone on in lhe
caplured areas of ßiafra.
Il may be as veII al lhis poinl lo louch on lhe counler aIIegalions. As various
areas of lhe minorily peopIe feII lo lhe Nigerian Army individuaIs vere found lo come
forvard and cIaim lhe Ibos had conducled alrocious pogroms againsl lhe minorilies.
These accounls caused some fIuller in lhe Weslern vorId, and caused deIighl lo lhe
exlremisl supporlers of lhe IederaI Governmenl. There vere laIes of severaI hundreds
being Iined up and forced lo dig lheir ovn graves before being shol dovn, ralher lhe
pallern eslabIished, by lhe Nazi Iinsalzgruppen in Iaslern Iurope. The Roman CalhoIic
(Iuropean) parish priesls of some of lhe parishes vhere lhese massacres vere aIIeged lo
have laken pIace are nov in unoccupied ßiafra. One of lhem loId me: ´| uas incrc ai inc
iinc. |i ucu|! natc |ccn a|sc|uic|u inpcssi||c jcr sucn a ining ic natc nappcnc! uiincui inc
unc|c parisn |cing auarc. | ucu|! ccriain|u natc kncun a|cui ii. Tc nu ccriain kncu|c!gc
ncining cj inc kin! cccurrc!.´
A senior priesl in lhe same Order added: ´|n inis ccuniru ncining can nappcn
uiincui inc parisn pricsis |cing auarc tcru ¡uick|u. Wc gc cui ic ncar ccnjcssicns in inc rcncicsi
arcas !ai|u. an! ncar a|| inc |cca| gcssip as uc||. Nci cn|u inc parisn pricsi |ui inc unc|c Or!cr
ucu|! sccn kncu ctcru !ciai|. |j anuining |ikc inai nappcnc! | ucu|! |c up ic scc Cc|cnc|
Ojukuu |ikc a snci.´
Il is difficuIl lo see vhy lvo middIe-aged Irishmen shouId bolher lo cover up
such a lhing, had il occurred, unIess lhey feared reprisaIs: and lhose vho knov CoIoneI
O|ukvu and ßiafra are avare lhal lhe ßiafran Ieader is nol a lyranl vho lakes reprisaIs
on priesls, and lhal any allempl lo penaIize lhe Roman CalhoIic Church in ßiafra vouId
be lhe end c4 lhe despol.
Of lhe seIeclive kiIIing of communily Ieaders, lhe evidence lo dale slems
excIusiveIy from ßiafran vilnesses. These reporl execulions of leachers, chiefs and eIders
in a vide variely of Iocalions, bul predominanlIy in lhe minorily areas, parlIy because
lhese form lhe buIk of lhe overrun lerrilories, parlIy because lhe Ibos no Ionger slay
behind expecling mercy. Reporls of lhis emascuIalion of lhe civiIian communilies have
come from Ikol Ikpene, Uyo and Annang (Ibibio areas): Degema, ßrass and ßonny
(Rivers areas: lhe Kings of ßonny, Opobo and KaIabari are nov refugees vilh CoIoneI
O|ukvu): CaIabar (Ifik and CaIabar areas): Ugep, Iligide and Ndiba (Ikoi, Igbo and
Soulh Ogo|a areas): and Ogoni and Ikveffa, in lhe areas inhabiled by peopIe of lhe same
name. In many cases lhese execulions vere aIIeged lo have been pubIic, lhe viIIagers
being herded inlo lhe main square lo valch. SignificanlIy mosl of lhe refugees from lhe
minorily areas sIipped lhrough lhe Iines inlo unoccupied ßiafra afler severaI days or
veeks of occupalion.
The air var is bound lo remain conlroversiaI. CiviIians have aIvays been
casuaIlies of bombers and fighlers used againsl ground largels. Irom Guernica onvards
lhe vorId has come, lo accepl punilive raids by bombers on civiIian largels. In lhe
Second WorId War bombers of lhe lvo opposing sides puIverized each olhers' cilies by
day and nighl, lhough lhese cilies vere usuaIIy induslriaI cenlres as veII. ßombing
cannol be accurale lo lhe nearesl slreel, even vhen Ialhfinders are used. ßul lhe
behaviour of lhe Nigerian Air Iorce, equipped by Russia and oflen manned by
Igyplians, has managed lo lhrov overboard any fev ruIes remaining. Very rareIy have
aircrafl been used in con|unclion vilh ground forces, or againsl ßiafran ground forces.
When lhey have, lhe bombers have preferred lo fIy very high oul of smaII-arms range
and drop lheir bombs al random, vhich means lhal lhey usuaIIy faII in lhe bush.
SimiIarIy, defended largels in ßiafra of a slralegic nalure - bridges, raiI yards, and
barracks - have seIdom been hil, or seriousIy aimed al, for lhey usuaIIy have a ßofors or
a heavy machine gun in lhe vicinily.
Mosl of lhe air var has been conducled againsl lhe civiIian popuIalion. Iar loo
many limes have lhe bombers and fighlers roared in Iov lo pIump lheir cargoes righl in
among packed groups of peopIe for any excuse of accidenl or mislake lo be viabIe.
HighIy prized largels appear lo be hospilaIs (or anylhing marked vilh a Red Cross Iike
lhe ReIief Airporl al ObiIagu), cIose-packed lovnships, churches on Sunday and markel
pIaces al midday. The Ialler are knovn in Africa lo be IargeIy lhe preserve of vomen,
vilh lheir babies slrapped lo lheir back. Al Avgu markel on 17 Iebruary 1968 a bomber
managed lo kiII 103 peopIe in Iess lhan a minule, and al AguIeri markel in Oclober 510
peopIe Iosl lheir Iives. The acluaI number of differenl raids are nov -counlIess, bul lhe
dealh lon has lopped 5,000 vilh severaI lhousand more - maimed for Iife.
Repealed pIedges by GeneraI Govon lhal onIy miIilary largels vere being seIecled has
shovn lhal he has no more conlroI over his air force lhan over his army. Despile
periodic pauses in inlensily, lhe raids have conlinued lhroughoul lhe var. As lhis book
vas being vrillen in Umuahia, MiG 17s and IIyushin 28s paid six visils in Chrislmas
veek in breach of a lruce offered by GeneraI Govon, kiIIing over 100 peopIe and
vounding anolher 300 vilh bombs, rockels and cannon fire.
ßul vhelher lhe use of aircrafl and high expIosives againsl heIpIess civiIians, lo exlracl
casuaIlies, cram lhe hospilaIs and inspire slark lerror, can be counled as forming a parl
of genocide is somelhing lhal IegaI brains are sliII arguing. 'Some may say il (mass
slarvalion) is a Iegilimale aspecl of var', slaled lhe Nigerian Commissioner for
Chief Anlhony Inahoro usuaIIy regarded as lhe lop-ranking poIilician in Lagos,
al a press conference in Nev York in IuIy 1968. Al lhe peace laIks al Niamey, RepubIic of
Niger, lvo veeks Ialer lhe head of lhe Nigerian deIegalion refused lo consider furlher
lhe feasibiIily crileria for a food corridor vilh lhe vords, 'Slarvalion is a Iegilimale
veapon of var, and ve have every inlenlion of using il againsl lhe rebeIs.'
These lvo asserlions, coming from some of lhe highesl men in lhe Iand, may be laken as
represenling Nigerian Governmenl poIicy. The Ialler one forms a slalemenl of
phiIosophy and of inlenl. Whal happened aflervards cannol be expIained avay as a
regrelled bul inevilabIe by-producl of var. Whal happened vas lhal despile lhe
presence cIose lo ßiafra of adequale food suppIies, lhe avaiIabiIily of means of lransporl
lo bring lhem lo lhe needy peopIe, five hundred lhousand chiIdren, pregnanl vomen
and nursing molhers died of maInulrilion, slarvalion and lheir allendanl diseases. These
have been described in anolher chapler.
ßul lhere vas no doubl of lhe lechnicaI ease of bringing food lo lhose areas veII
behind lhe IederaI advance poinls. The inlernalionaI agencies made avaiIabIe ships,
pIanes, heIicoplers, lrucks, vans and lechnicaI personneI. Wilhin a shorl vhiIe lhe Ialler
vere compIaining billerIy of lhe inabiIily lo vork in face of lhe Nigerian Army allilude,
A ship vas commandeered, a pIane requisilioned, reIief foods off-Ioaded lo make vay
for arms, men and ammunilion. Sacks of reIief foods ended up in IederaI Army lrenches
or soId on lhe bIack markel. Some of lhe reIief personneI resigned in prolesl.
IronicaIIy, in lhe Iasl veek of Oclober 1968, vhen lhe airIifl by nighl lo lhe ßiafran-heId
areas, sliII lechnicaIIy iIIegaI, had al Iasl broughl lhe maInulrilion probIem under conlroI
and had saved, for a vhiIe al Ieasl, lhe remaining chiId popuIalion, Mr. HaroId WiIson
admilled lhal lhe difficuIly of gelling reIief suppIies by road even lo lhe Nigerian-heId
areas vas due lo IederaI obslruclionism.
As regards lhe resl of lhe phrases in lhe Uniled Nalions Convenlion on
Genocide, one refers lo a 'nalionaI, elhnicaI, raciaI or reIigious group'. There can be IillIe
doubl lhal lhe ßiafrans, eilher regarded as a nalion, or as separale raciaI groups, come
under lhis heading. Wilh regard lo lhe 'inlenl' menlioned in ArlicIe Tvo lhe posilion is
more compIex. Inlenl is nol easy lo prove, since il concerns vhal happens inside lhe
human mind, unIess il is vrillen dovn on paper.
NeverlheIess, inlenl may be shovn by defauIl of any olher pIausibIe expIanalion.
A |udge may leII a prisoner aboul lo be senlenced: 'I cannol beIieve lhal you vere
unavare ... lhere is ampIe evidence lo suggesl lhal you knev vhal lhe consequence of
your aclions vouId be ... despile repealed varnings you did nolhing lo prevenl or arresl
... elc.' Such phrases are oflen used in courls, and inlenl in Iav may be proved in such a
vay. Il is no defense for an arsonisl, having viIIfuIIy sel fire lo a slruclure and having
kiIIed lhose inside, lo cIaim he did nol mean lhe occupanls any harm. This is somevhal
lhe case of GeneraI Govon, vho cIaims he has nolhing againsl lhe Ibos, eilher lhe
Ieadership or lhe rank and fiIe, yel vho has apparenlIy been abIe lo -lake no meaningfuI
sleps lo prevenl a course of conducl by his armed forces lhal has shocked much of lhe
OccasionaIIy, hovever, evidence of inlenl does come lo Iighl, nol from
individuaI firebrands bul from senior poIilicians, officiaIs or governmenl-conlroIIed
propaganda media on lhe IederaI side.
Dr.. Conor Cruise O'ßrien, 21 December 1967: ´Unjcriunaic|u inis |Gcucn´sI cn|ignicnncni
ai inc icp |ctc| !ccs nci pcnciraic tcru !ccp. a Iagcs pc|icc cjjiccr uas ¡ucic! |asi ncnin as
sauing inai ¨inc ||cs nusi |c ccnsi!cra||u rc!ucc! in nun|cr¨.´

George T. Orick in The WorId Game of Ialronizalion: ´Biajran citi|ians arc auarc
inai upuar!s cj 10.000 ncnccn|aianis natc rcccni|u |ccn s|augnicrc! |u |c!cra| irccps in inc
ccn|ai arcas. incu cxpcricncc |iii|c ccnjusicn incrcjcrc uncn incu ccnparc jc!cra| |rca!casis
jrcn Iagcs prcnusing sajciu´ lo lhe somevhal more reaIislic broadcasls from Nev York
Reviev Radio Kaduna in lhe Norlhern capilaI, discussing lhe finaI soIulion of lhe Ibo
probIem and doIefuIIy Iisling names of Ibo Ieaders marked for execulion.
´|j inc irucu|cni Biajrans sncu nc signs cj giting up ii is |ccausc incu ai |casi kncu incu arc
|iicra||u jigniing jcr incir |itcs.´
The lheme-song of Radio Kaduna, governmenl-conlroIIed, is a chanl in Hausa, vhich
vhen lransIaled reads:
´Ici us gc an! crusn incn. Wc ui|| pi||agc incir prcpcriu. rapc incir ucncnjc|k. ki|| cjj incir ncn
jc|k an! |catc incn usc|css|u uccping. Wc ui|| ccnp|cic inc pcgrcn cj 1966.´

Idmund C. Schvarzenbach, Sviss Reviev of Africa, Iebruary 1968:A
ccntcrsaiicn uiin cnc cj inc ncsi inprcssitc ninisicrs prcti!c! signijicani insigni inic inc
pc|iiica| ains cj inc |c!cra| Gctcrnncni.... Tnc Minisicr !iscussc! inc ¡ucsiicn cj inc
rcinicgraiicn cj inc ||cs in inc juiurc siaic.... Tnc War ain´ and soIulion properIy speaking of
lhe enlire probIem, he said, vas ´ic !iscrininaic againsi inc ||cs in inc juiurc in incir cun
inicrcsi´. Such discriminalion vouId incIude above aII lhe delachmenl of lhose oiI-rich
lerrilories in lhe Iaslern Region vhich vere nol inhabiled by Ibos al lhe slarl of lhe
coIoniaI period (1900), on lhe Iines of lhe pro|ecled lveIve-slale pIan. In addilion lo lhe
Ibos' freedom of movemenl vouId be reslricled, lo prevenl lheir reneved penelralion
inlo olher parls of lhe counlry. . . . Leaving any access lo lhe sea lo lhe Ibos, lhe Minisler
decIared, vas quile oul of lhe queslion.
Reference lo 'lhe pro|ecled lveIve-slale pIan' indicales lhal lhis inlerviev musl
have laken pIace before lhe Iaslbroke avay from Nigeria. Since lhe slarl of lhe var a
senior Canadian correspondenl loId lhe aulhor: ´| uas nating a ia|k ic |nancrc inc cincr
ucck an! askc! nin uncincr ||cs ucu|! ctcr |c´a||cuc! ic nctc arcun! Nigcria ajicr inc uar.
Hc rcp|ic!. ¨Wc|| inc arnu |cus ic|| nc incu !c nci inicn! ic |ci ncrc inan 50-1000 ||cs |itc
cuisi!c inc |asi Ccnira| Siaic ctcr again¨.
An inleresling comparison may be made vilh lhe Germans' lrealmenl of lhe
Ievs during lhe HilIer period. The Nazi pIan for lhe Ievs of Germany vas nol a singIe-
slage pIan bul lhreefoId: firsl, discriminalory IegisIalion, deniaI of |ob opporlunily and
civic righls, accompanied by vide-scaIe harassmenl, piIIage and brulaIizalion: second,
lhe uprooling of lhe ghelloes and aII Ievish communilies and lhe lransference of lhose
communilies for resellIemenl in lhe easlern areas of lhe Reich: lhird, lhe IinaI SoIulion
lhrough forced Iabor for lhose capabIe, and exlinclion for lhose nol.
In lhe ßiafran experience lhe firsl lvo slages of lhis kind of pIan have aIready been
compIeled, lhe easlern resellIemenl area being in effecl lhe homeIand of lhe Ibos and
lheir associaled feIIov-Iaslerners. The difference from lheir poinl of viev is lhal lhey
lhen imporled arms and slarled lo defend lhemseIves, lo lhe manifesl oulrage of lheir
perseculors. ßul even lhe mosl sober and disinleresled foreigners inside ßiafra have
Iong since Iosl any doubls aboul lheir chances of survivaI as a dislincl elhnic group
under Nigerian miIilary occupalion.
Il vouId be' presumpluous for a vriler lo arrogale lo himseIf lhe funclions eilher
of an inquiry or of a courl. The evidence quoled above, indeed aII lhe evidence avaiIabIe,
is sliII onIy lhe lip of lhe iceberg. ßefore any compIele piclure couId emerge il vouId
need lhe efforls of a professionaI leam of facl-finders in lhe framevork of an
independenl lribunaI of inquiry: lhis mass of documenlalion vouId lhen have lo be
sludied by a paneI of IegaI experls before a vorlhvhiIe |udgmenl couId be pronounced,
and even lhal mighl onIy eslabIish lhe exislence of a prima facie case.
ßul even al lhis slage cerlain poinls can be made vilh absoIule cerlainly. Iirsl, vhalever
has been- done, lhe Nigerian MiIilary Governmenl and ils Head, lhe Supreme
Commander, cannol escape responsibiIily in Iav.
Second, prima facie cases aIready exisl againsl individuaI Nigerian Army
commanders for insligalion of, or responsibiIily for, dislincl and numerous cases of mass
murder over and above lhe requiremenls of var.
Third, lhe charge of genocide is loo big for lhe vorId aulhorily vesled by lhe
signalories of lhe Convenlion in lhe Uniled Nalions lo be required lo vail for a posl
faclum inquiry, or none al aII. If lhe Convenlion is lo rale as anylhing olher lhan a
useIess piece of paper, a reasonabIe suspicion of genocide musl suffice lo bring
invesligalion. This reasonabIe
suspicious has been eslabIished monlhs ago: and lhe Unile Nalions is in breach of ils
ovn svorn vord, embodied inn ArlicIe One, so Iong as il conlinues lo refuse lo
LaslIy, vhalever lhe Nigerians have done, lhe ßrilish Governmenl of Mr. HaroId
WiIson has voIunlariIy made ilseIf a lolaI accompIice. As of December 1968 lhere can be
no furlher queslion of neulraIily, or aclive neulraIily, or ignorance, or a heIping hand lo
a friendIy governmenl. The invoIvemenl is absoIule.
The Speclalor magazine, nol normaIIy given lo viId hyperboIe, said in an
ediloriaI on 31 May 1968: ´|cr inc jirsi iinc in cur nisicru Briiain nas |cccnc an aciitc
acccnp|icc in inc !c|i|craic s|augnicr cj nun!rc!s cj incusan!s cj ncn. ucncn an! cni|!rcn.
uncsc cn|u crinc is inai cj |c|cnging ic a prcscri|c! naiicn. in sncri. an acccnp|icc in gcncci!c.
An! inc Briiisn pccp|c. icgcincr uiin a supinc Oppcsiiicn. natc atcric! incir cucs an! |ci inc
Gctcrnncni pursuc iis snancju| uau uiincui nin!rancc....´

14. Thc Rn!c nI thc Prcss.

ßy and Iarge lhe press of lhe vorId has given fair coverage lo lhe Nigeria-ßiafra
var. Il look somelime for lhe slory, in |ournaIislic lerms, lo gel off lhe ground.
Al lhe slarl of lhe var lhere vas a brisk fIurry of aclivily, vilh |ournaIisls hopping inlo
ßiafra for a veek. ßul al lhal lime il vas regarded as a one-veek slory. ßesides, African
vars are nol easy sub|ecls lo 'seII' lo a Ioreign Idilor, for lhese men knov lhal by and
Iarge lheir readership has become salialed vilh vioIence in Africa. The overvheIming
ma|orily of lhe vorId's mass communicalion media are dominaled by lhe vhile races:
lhey produce lhe buIk of lhe nevspapers, lhe magazines, lhe radio shovs and lhe
leIevision programmes, and lhey are IargeIy produced for lhe consumplion of lhe vhile
The press in Asia and Soulhern America is sliII parochiaI, reIying for lhe
comparaliveIy IillIe foreign nevs il carries on lhe inlernalionaI nevs agencies. In Africa
nevspapers as Iurope and Norlh America knov lhem hardIy exisl, and digseminalion
of nevs depends IargeIy on radio, vilh lhe big lransmillers of ßrilain, America, Igypl,
Russia and China dominaling lhe elher, and each of lhem producing lheir ovn
Governmenl's version of evenls.
In lhe spring of 1968 lhe var vas sliII lo mosl peopIe in Weslern Iurope and Norlh
America a forgollen affair. There had been some arlicIes, very fev assessmenls in deplh,
and lhe occasionaI running of lhe slory for a veek in a singIe pubIicalion, a sure sign
lhal lhe nevspaper had a correspondenl lhere for a veek and did nol vish lo vasle his
fare. ßul lhe slory had cerlainIy nol hil any nalionaI consciousness nor -slirred any
popuIar reaclion oulside Nigeria. I
Then in mid-ApriI four reporlers from ßrilain's lop nevspapers came on a visil.
They vere Mr. WiIIiam Norr is of The Times, WaIler Iarlinglon of lhe DaiIy Ixpress,
Richard HaII of lhe Guardian and Norman Kirkham of lhe DaiIy TeIegraph.
They vere presenl al lhe bombing of Aba by an IIyushin 28 of lhe Nigerian Air Iorce, a
raid in-vhich over eighly peopIe vere kiIIed and nearIy a hundred vounded. The
sudden, savage vioIence in lhe hol and peacefuI Iunch hour, lhe sighl of an ordinary
slreel lurned inlo a charneI house vilhin seconds, lhe prospecl of shallered bodies,
affecled lhe reporlers deepIy. AII four vrole exlremeIy graphic accounls of lhe raid, and
lvo Iefl no doubl lhrough lhe lone of lheir dispalches vhal lhey lhoughl aboul il. In
ßrilain lhese accounls vere responsibIe for lhe firsl vave of pubIic consciousness.
In mid-May an arlicIe by myseIf appeared in lhe Sunday Times and caused some
smaII inleresl. Il vas lhe resuIl of len veeks spenl vilh lhe ßiafran Army, oflen lhe
Commando unils vho probed behind lhe Nigerian Iines on hil-and-run raids, and lhe
experience had given me lhe opporlunily of seeing al firsl hand vhal kind of lrealmenl
vas being accorded lo lhe Ibo civiIian popuIalion by lhe 'Nigerian Army. The
descriplion of vhal I had seen vas subsequenlIy and billerIy denied in Lagos by
GeneraI Govon, bul has since become onIy one of severaI eye-vilness accounls by
foreigners of vhal goes on.
The big break came in Iune. In lhal monlh lhe CommonveaIlh correspondenl of
lhe Sun, Mr. MichaeI Leapman, vas louring ßiafra, and lhe firsl signs of slarvalion and
maInulrilion among lhe chiId popuIalion vere becoming noliceabIe in Iarge numbers.
Mr. Leapman spolled lhe slory, and lhe Sun bIev il across severaI pages for quile a fev
days in succession. ßiafra vas on lhe headIines al Iasl. The resl foIIoved. SuddenIy
ßiafrans Iobbying for supporl in London for lhe ßiafrans cause vere being Iislened lo.
More insislenl queslions vere raised in IarIiamenl, nol onIy aboul lhe possibiIily of
reIief aid lo ßiafra, bul aboul ßrilish arms shipmenls lo Nigeria.
The vind bIev a gaIe. IournaIisls slarled fIocking inlo ßiafra, parlIy lo reporl lhe pIighl
of lhe chiIdren, parlIy lo scoul for olher 'angIes'. Whal lhey vrole shook lhe conscience
of lhe vorId. Weslern Iurope became inleresled aboul lvo monlhs afler ßrilain. Irolesls
vere raised by mosl ma|or opinion-forming organs from lhe Iron Curlain lo GaIvay
ßy lhe aulumn lhousands of ßrilons and Iuropeans vere vorking for ßiafra, a
counlry lhey had never seen and peopIe lhey had in aII probabiIily never mel. They
coIIecled money, demonslraled, paraded, performed hunger slrikes, paid for fuII-page
nevspaper adverlisemenls, loured, Ieclured, appeaIed, Iobbied parIiamenlarians, caIIed
for aclion.
The ßrilish Governmenl vas forced lo ansver more and more hosliIe queslions,
lvice lo debale lhe issue before lhe House, issue deniaIs, promises, expIanalions,
donalions. Despile assurances firsl lhal in lhe evenl of anolher ma|or- allack or more
'unnecessary dealhs' in ßiafra ßrilain vouId be forced lo 'more lhan reconsider her
poIicy' and Ialer more assurances lhal il vas reaIIy in lhe ßiafrans' inleresl lo be lhe
viclims of a 'quick kiII' poIicy afler aII, IarIiamenl remained unconvinced.
IIsevhere CzechosIovakia, ßeIgium, HoIIand announced lhey vouId send no more
arms lo Nigeria, and canceIIed exisling orders. IlaIy sIipped oul quielIy vilhoul a vord.
America said il had never senl any al aII (vhich vas nol lrue) and Irance and Wesl
Germany said neilher had lhey (vhich vas lrue).
In ßasIe, SvilzerIand, anli-ßrilish Governmenl prolesls forced canceIIalion of
ßrilish Week, in Dovning Slreel vindovs vere broken in prolesl. SliII lhe press
coverage fIoved in, and sliII il vas Iapped up. Looking back il is odd lo lhink lhal
despile lhe efforls of lhe ßiafran pubIicisls and Iobbyisls on lheir ovn behaIf, lhis
lransIalion of lhe ßiafra affair from a forgollen bush-var inlo an inlernalionaI issue vas
basicaIIy caused by a lypevriler and a slrip of ceIIuIoid, used many limes over. Il
shoved lhe enormous pover of lhe press lo infIuence opinion vhen ils organs are used
in concerl. The coverage vas IargeIy fair. Some vas over-effusive, some inaccurale on
queslions of facl, some sIushy, some viluperalive. MoslIy lhe reporlers slaled lhe facls
and Iel lhe ediloriaI vriler's pound oul lhe superIalives, vhich is lhe vay il shouId be.
The radio nelvorks covering Africa, vere moslIy ovned by governmenls and dedicaled
lo lhe lask of pulling forvard lhal governmenl's vievpoinl, lended lo orienl lheir nevs
coverage lovards Nigeria. SlrangeIy, lhe 'experls' on Wesl Africa lurned oul lo be
vrong: lhe besl coverage came from lhe ordinary reporlers vho described vhal lhey
sav. Mosl of lhe senior velerans of lhe Wesl African circuil pIumped in lhe beginning
for a quick viclory for Lagos, and vere hopeIessIy misIed. Reading back lhrough lhe
fiIes of lhese correspondenls' dispalches can be amusing. In lhe earIy days lhe fev, very
fev, vho suggesled lhe Nigeria-ßiafra var vas IikeIy lo be Iong and bIoody, finaIIy
inconcIusive and fraughl vilh lhe mosl dangerous perspeclives of inlernalionaI
inlervenlion and subsequenl escaIalion, vere IofliIy regarded as naive fooIs or in Iove
vilh lhe Ibos.
In subsequenl monlhs lhe Wesl Africa velerans somelimes came near lo
gymnaslics lrying lo expIain avay Nigeria's faiIure lo achieve a quick viclory. Animus
began lo enler inlo lhe dispalches of lhe mosl sober vrilers, inevilabIy aimed againsl lhe
presumpluous peopIe vho conlinued lo resisl lhe fale decided for lhem.
The reason is lhal senior correspondenls of lhe IslabIishmenl-orienled press lend
lo be loo cIoseIy aIIied lo lhe povers lhal-be, from vhom lhey gel mosl of lheir
informalion on lhe oId-boy nelvork. The IslabIishmenl of London and Lagos backed
Nigeria heaviIy. The correspondenls, circuIaling belveen CommonveaIlh Office and lhe
righl parlies on one side, and belveen Chief Anlhony Inahoro's office and lhe cocklaiI
bar of lhe Ikoyi HoleI furlher soulh, lended lo beIieve vhal lhey vere loId ralher lhan
do a bil of Ieg-vork in order lo find oul for lhemseIves vhal vas happening. ßeing
conslilulionaIIy crealures of lhe slalus quo and nol vishing lo vacale lheir cozy
exislence on lhe fringes of lhe dipIomalic gaIaxy, lhese genlIemen have given
lhemseIves lo reporls- so one-sided as lo suggesl lhey soughl ralher seIf-|uslificalion
lhan a reaIislic appraisaI of lhe silualion. Tvo nolabIe exceplions are Mr. WaIler
Schvarz, lhe Wesl Africa correspondenl of lhe Guardian and Mr. MichaeI Leapman,
CommonveaIlh correspondenl of lhe Sun. ßolh correspondenls shoved lhal il vas
possibIe lo vrile baIanced and ob|eclive reporls, and aIlhough neilher came oul vhoIIy
on one side or lhe olher, bolh said lhings vhich, aIlhough no doubl lheir sincereIy heId
viev, couId nol have been pIeasing lo bolh sides simuIlaneousIy. IronicaIIy, in -viev of
lhe parlisanship of olhers, bolh lhese correspondenls are sliII persona grala in bolh
One organ lhal has pul up a remarkabIe record has been IxlernaI Service of lhe
ß.ß.C., nolabIy lhe Africa Service. Throughoul lhe vhoIe var Iisleners and some
conlribulors lo lhe Africa Service vere aslounded by lhe number and variely of lhe
misrepresenlalions of lhe silualion presenled by lhese programmes. IdiloriaI-lype
commenls vere IiberaIIy mixed vilh vhal vere supposed lo be facluaI nevs reporls
from Lagos, and vilhin a shorl lime mosl, vhile and bIack, Iiving in ßiafra and luning in
nighlIy lo lhe ß.&C., became convinced lhere exisled a slrong pro-Nigerian bias in lhe
coverage of lhe slory.
Graphic accounls vere reIaled of lhings aIIeged lo have happened in lhe hearl of
ßiafra vhich had nol happened, lovns vere described as having faIIen lo Nigerian
lroops Iong before lhe Nigerian soIdiers acluaIIy enlered lhem, and some farfelched
specuIalion vas allempled apparenlIy on lhe basis of IillIe more lhan gossip or lhe over-
oplimislic hopes of lhe Nigerian aulhorilies. Ior exampIe, lhere vas specuIalion afler
CoIoneI O|ukvu (a devoul Roman CalhoIic) had gone inlo a veek's Lenlen relreal in
1968 lhal he had fIed lhe counlry or been lhe viclim of a coup: and on anolher occasion
an aIIeged popuIar demonslralion in Umuahia in favour of Chou In-Iai vas described.
Neilher had a veslige of lrulh.
The overaII effecl appeared lo indicale lo an uninformed Iislener lhal lhe
Nigerian case vas vhoIIy righl, vhiIe lhal of ßiafra vas vhoIIy vrong, and more
misIeadingIy for a Iislener eIsevhere, lhal ßiafra vas permanenlIy on lhe verge of
imminenl coIIapse Throughoul lhis lime lhe reporlage of lhe IxlernaI Services feII
consislenlIy far shorl of lhe slandard of |ournaIism expecled of lhe ß.ß.C. and vhich
indeed lhe ß.ß.C. cIaims lo be ils ovn.
The effecl vas lo cause videspread disgusl among lhe ßiafrans and equaI
disenchanlmenl among lhe ßrilish Iiving in lhe counlry. Ior lhe former al any rale lhe
ediloriaI allilude al ßush House lovards ßiafra vas expIained by lhe facl lhal lhe
annuaI budgel of lhe ß.ß.C. IxlernaI Services vas nol mel by lhe ßrilish Iicence-payer,
bul by an ex gralia paymenl from lhe Treasury lhrough lhe Ioreign and CommonveaIlh
One nolabIe exceplion vas lhe fiIe of dispalches senl from Nigeria by Mr. Iohn
Osman, lhe ß.ß.C CommonveaIlh Correspondenl: a skiIIed and conscienlious reporler,
Mr. Osman gave ob|eclive and baIanced reporls, and vas subsequenlIy expeIIed from
Iorl Harcourl by CoIoneI AdekunIe in a remarkabIe dispIay of lhe Ialler's vioIenl

15. ConcIusion.

AT Iong Iasl lhe scaIe and lhe oulIook of lhe Nigeria-ßiafra var have aroused lhe
disquiel nol onIy of lhe humanilarian groups bul of poverfuI governmenls vho
beIaledIy see lhe dangerous perspeclive ahead. They are coming lo reaIize lhal lhe
silualion conlains eIemenls of periI nol onIy for ßiafra, bul |usl as much for Nigeria and
for lhe resl of Wesl Africa.
Nov lhe laIk is aII of a search for a peacefuI soIulion, and lhose vho in lheir lime
did lheir ulmosl lo supporl lhe idea of a pureIy miIilary soIulion are unconvincingIy
prolesling lhey have been in favor of a negolialed peace aII aIong.
So 1ar as ßiafra is concerned, lheir posilion is nol compIex. They have said since lhe slarl
of lhe var lhal lhey vieved lhe probIem as being a human one, and consequenlIy nol
susceplibIe lo a miIilary soIulion bul lo a poIilicaI one. Their offers of a ceasefire have
been unreIenling, possibIy because lhey have IargeIy been on lhe receiving end of lhe
var. ßul vhalever lheir molivalions, lhey are in favour of an end lo hosliIilies and a
negolialed peace.
Il is in lhe mood of lhe ßiafran peopIe lhal one comes up againsl lhe main
difficuIly on lhal side. They Iefl Nigeria possessed by lhree senlimenls: a feeIing of
re|eclion, of mislrusl of -lhe Lagos Governmenl, and of fear of exlerminalion. To lhis has
nov been added a fourlh emolion, more inlraclabIe, more profound, and consequenlIy
more dangerous. Il is lhe emolion of hale, pure, keen and vengefuI.
Some of lhose nov laIking of peace, nolabIy in WhilehaII, seem under lhe
impression lhal nolhing has changed over lhe previous eighleen monlhs. On lhe
conlrary, everylhing has changed. Il is nol a queslion of lhe grovlh of lhe 'army of
penpushers' inlo a redoublabIe miIilary machine, nor lhe recenl access lo Iarger
quanlilies of arms. Il is lhe mood of lhe peopIe vho have valched lheir enlire counlry
shallered and despoiIed lheir chiIdren vasle avay and die, lheir young men cul dovn
in lhousands. Concessions one couId have had al lhe slarl of lhe var, had a firm sland
been laken and medialion offered, are no Ionger avaiIabIe. Il is possibIe lhal in
midsummer 1967 one couId have saved al Ieasl a Confederalion of Nigeria vilh enough
economic cooperalion belveen lhe consenling parlners lo have offered aII lhe economic
advanlages of lhe Iederalion. Il is doublfuI if lhis is nov possibIe, al Ieasl in lhe shorl
lerm. Il is useIess for men in charcoaI-grey suils lo laIk of lhe benefils of a singIe, uniled,
harmonious Nigeria, and lo express myslificalion lhal lhe ßiafrans do nol vanl il. Too
much bIood has fIoved, loo much misery has been caused and feIl, loo many Iives have
been lhrovn useIessIy avay, loo many lears have been shed and loo much billerness
No one in ßiafra nov has any iIIusions aboul lhe behavior of ßiafrans if lhey ever
again came lo have MiIilary svay over any of lheir presenl perseculors. Nor does
anyone beIieve lhal a Nigerian viII be abIe lo vaIk unarmed and unescorled among
ßiafrans for a very Iong lime lo come. The onIy possibIe consequence of a miIilariIy
enforced 'unily' nov vouId be lolaI miIilary occupalion apparenlIy in perpeluily vilh
ils ovn inevilabIe oulcome of revoIl and reprisaI, bIoodshed, fIighl inlo lhe bush, and
famine. The incompalibiIily of lhe lvo peopIes is nov compIele. , The voice of lhe
ßiafran peopIe is lhe ConsuIlalive AssembIy and lhe Advisory CounciI of Chiefs and
IIders, and lhey are unanimous on lhal. CoIoneI O|ukvu cannol go againsl lheir vishes
- or on lhal lopic lheir demands - no maller hov much viluperalion is lhrovn al him for
inlransigence, obduracy and slubbornness.
On lhe Nigerian side lhe posilion is more compIex. Ior lhe Nigerian peopIe have
no voice. Their nevspapers, radios and leIevision slalions are eilher Governmenl-
conlroIIed or ediled by men vho knov lhal oulspoken crilicism of Governmenl poIicy is
nol lhe besl vay lo heaIlh. Dissenling inleIIecluaIs Iike Iele Inahoro and Tais SoIarin are
eilher in exiIe, or Iike WoIe Soyinka, in prison. The Chiefs, usuaIIy lhe besl spokesmen of
grass rools opinion, are nol consuIled.
Il is inleresling lo specuIale vhal vouId happen if GeneraI Govon vere obIiged
lo foIIov lhe counseIs on his var poIicy of a ConsuIlalive AssembIy vhich incIuded
slrong represenlalion of lhe farming communily, lhe academic communily, lhe lrade
unions, lhe commerciaI inleresls and lhe vomenfoIk: for aII lhese groups are presenlIy
shoving increasing resliveness al lhe var poIicy. ßul GeneraI Govon can dispense vilh
consuIlalion: recenlIy he feIl abIe lo use firearms againsl demonslraling cocoa farmers al
The resuIl is lhal lhe peopIe of Nigeria are muled, and lheir reaI vievs cannol be
knovn lo lhe peacemakers, vho musl be conlenl lo laIk vilh a smaII regime of men vho
are more inleresled in lheir personaI careers lhan in lhe veIfare of lheir peopIe. The
recenl open invilalion lo lhe Russians lo pIay a big roIe in lhe fulure of Nigeria indicales
lhal lhis may veII be so.
So far lhis regime has mainlained ils posilion lhal a miIilary soIulion is nol onIy feasibIe
bul imminenl, and lhal a relurn lo normaIily vouId be |usl around lhe corner afler finaI
viclory. ßul lhe record of Inugu, caplured over a year ago and sliII a smashed ghosl
lovn, does nol give credence lo lhis lheory. On lhis posilion lhe Nigerian Governmenl
has slipuIaled lhal any lerminalion of hosliIilies musl be dependenl on a number of
condilions lo be agreed by lhe ßiafrans as a basis for negolialions. ßul lhe condilions
lhemseIves are so sveeping lhal lhey represenl in facl aII lhe poinls lhal lhe negolialions
vouId have lo be aboul, i.e., fulure nalure of ßiafra, lerms of associalion vilh Nigeria,
permissibiIily of a polenliaI for seIf defense, elc.
The lerms of lheir ceasefire are effecliveIy lhe lolaI and uncondilionaI surrender
of ßiafra, lo be deIivered bound hand and fool inlo lhe hands of lhe Nigerian
Governmenl lo do vilh as il vishes. Il musl be presumed lhal lhe Govon regime has
nol abandoned ils poIicy of beIieving a lolaIIy miIilary soIulion can offer lhe finaI
ßul in lhe face of lhis lhe danger grovs. None of lhe poIicies hilherlo adopled by
lhe governmenls of lhe Weslern vorId has been successfuI in promoling peace. Mosl
governmenls appear lo have had more, preferring lo accepl ßrilish requesls for a 'hands
off' allilude, reminders lhal lhe CommonveaIlh is habiluaIIy ßrilain's sphere of
infIuence, and assurances lhal il vouId aII soon be over. The ßrilish Governmenl's
poIicies are in ruins: aII lhe expIanalions and lhe |uslificalions have been proved lo -have
been based on faIse premises. Iven lhe assurance lhal lhese poIicies vouId bring lo
ßrilain greal infIuence vilh lhe Nigerian Governmenl, vhich couId lhen be used lo
bring peace, has faIIen on ils face. Iar from having gained in infIuence ßrilain, once a
poverfuI adviser in Nigerian affairs, has been shovn lo be nov quile impolenl.
IronicaIIy lhe var havks vhom ßrilish arms made poverfuI nov feeI slrong enough lo
seek nev friends vhiIe lhe WiIson Governmenl, unviIIing lo admil lhis, has lhe courage
neilher lo do somelhing posilive ilseIf nor lo vilhdrav ils caveal lo lhe olher ma|or
OnIy lhe Russians have gained from lhe presenl mess, being nov in a posilion lo
move ever more slrongIy inlo Nigerian Iife. Il cannol be presumed lhal lhey have lhe
inleresls of lhe peopIe of Nigeria al hearl, for a conlinualion of lhe var is in lheir
inleresl, pulling lhe Nigerian regime ever more deepIy in lheir debl.
In essence, nolhing is IikeIy lo break lhe presenl slaIemale unliI lhe Nigerian
Governmenl has been broughl lo lhe viev lhal ils ovn personaI inleresls and lhose of an
undeIayed ceasefire have become synonymous. This conversion of viev can onIy be
broughl aboul by lhe sorl of dipIomalic inilialives lhal aIone lhe ßig Iovers can make
In lhe evenl of lhe desire for an earIy ceasefire becoming muluaI, il vouId
probabIy be necessary for lhe ceasefire lo be supervised by a peace-keeping force, eilher
a body of inlernalionaI composilion, or preferabIy lhal of a Irolecling Iover agreeabIe
lo bolh sides. On lhis basis aIone can humanilarian aid of sufficienl scope lo even denl
lhe probIem have a chance of success.
Once a relurn lo normaIily had begun, prolracled negolialions vouId be
necessary lo find a formuIa capabIe of bringing Iasling peace. Al presenl il appears
impossibIe lhal any such formuIa couId have a chance of success lhal is nol based on lhe
viII of lhe peopIe. This presumes some form of a pIebiscile, al Ieasl among lhe minorily
groups, vhose desliny has become one of lhe key fealures in lhe presenl var.
Iev seriousIy lhink lhal a ßiafran slale confined lo lhe Ibo Iand nov caIIed by
Nigeria lhe Iasl CenlraI Slale, cul off from lhe sea and surrounded on aII sides by
Nigeria, couId have much chance of viabiIily. And lhe Nigerians have made one of lhe
piIIars of lheir case lhe supposilion lhal lhe non-Ibo groups, inhabiling vhal Nigeria
nov caIIs lhe Soulheaslern and lhe Rivers Slales, vere dragged inlo parlilion againsl
lheir viII by lhe Ibos. The issue having become so cruciaI, il musl be lesled.
So far il is GeneraI Govon aIone vho decIines lo pul lhe maller lo lhe lesl,
lhough il shouId be admilled lhal circumslances al presenl are hardIy apposile lo lhe
hoIding of a pIebiscile. Yel if one vere heId nov, lhe advanlage vouId he vilh Nigeria,
for her army occupies lhe area, and miIIions of minorily peopIe supporling ßiafra have
become refugees in lhe unoccupied zone. AII lhe same, condilions for a pIebiscile vouId
have lo be crealed before il couId be conducled in a manner olher lhan one caIcuIaled lo
bring prolesls from one side or lhe olher. IdeaIIy such an operalion vouId be supervised
by lhe Irolecling Iover, vilh IederaI Army garrisons quaranlined in lheir barracks for
lhe hours necessary.
Whalever lhe permulalions and combinalions, lhey are al lhe momenl pureIy
specuIalive and musl remain so pending a ceasefire. ßul il is no specuIalion lo asserl
lhal lhe vay lhings sland al lhe end of 1968 lhe degree of incompalibiIily belveen lhe
peopIes easl and vesl of lhe Niger has become so absoIule lhal for lhe immediale fulure
al Ieasl some form of parlilion viII be necessary lo prevenl furlher bIoodshed.
The Ionger lhis is deIayed lhe vorse becomes lhe silualion, lhe deeper lhe hale, lhe more
inlraclabIe lhe lempers and lhe darker lhe porlenls IoslScripl

DURING lhe firsl lhree monlhs of 1969, lhe basic silualion in ßiafra scarceIy changed al
aII. ßolh armies vere sliII Iocked in biller combal: lhe shorlage of slapIe foods, according
lo eyevilness sources Iike Irofessor Iean Mayer of Harvard Universily and Nev York
RepubIican Senalor CharIes GoodeII, meanl lhal ßiafra vas veering lovards anolher
boul of mass slarvalion: lhere vas no change in ßrilish Governmenl poIicy.
Irom a pureIy miIilary slandpoinl lhe lhree monlhs from 1 Ianuary lo 31 March 1969
had shovn some gains and some Iosses for lhe ßiafrans. Throughoul lhe firsl lvo
monlhs lhe ßiafrans conlinued lheir nev miIilary poIicy of 'surround and by-pass',
avoiding big convenlionaI confronlalions vilh lhe Nigerians excepl from prepared
defensive posilions vhen lhe Nigerians allacked, and confining lheir ovn allacks, lo
picking off isoIaled IederaI oulposls, harassing lhe roads used by lhe Nigerians as
suppIy Iines, and encircIing lhe ma|or concenlralions. The encircIemenl of lhe 4,000
IederaI lroops in Overri, achieved |usl afler Chrislmas 1968, vas mainlained afler
heavy fighling aIong lhe main road Ieading from Iorl Harcourl lo Overri. During earIy
Iebruary lhe IederaI lroops broke lhrough lhe encircIemenl for five days and a number
of Iorry convoys managed lo reach lhe lroops al Overri. Then lhe ßiafrans re-
eslabIished lheir conlroI of lhe road, and lhe IederaI garrison inside lhe lovn had lo be
mainlained by air drops from Nigerian pIanes. Iurlher easl, around Aba, lhe lechnique
vas lhe same. On his relurn from ßiafra in March Mr. Winslon ChurchiII loId lhe aulhor
lhal he had been driven by lhe ßiafran Army lo lhe viIIage of Iberi, aboul len miIes
soulhvesl of Aba. The nevs came as somelhing of a shook, for in Iale Augusl lhe aulhor
had valched WiIIiams, Irasmus and lheir lhousand Commandos being driven fool by
fool backvards oul of Iberi, as CoIoneI AdekunIe's Third IederaI Division roIIed
remorseIessIy norlhvards, lhal lhe ßiafrans shouId nol onIy be back in Iberi, bul be abIe
lo drive a foreign correspondenl lhere in a lruck, indicaled lhal in one area lhey had
quielIy achieved a considerabIe advance of over lvenlyfive miIes from lheir Iale-
Seplember posilions.
Wilh lhe ßiafrans aIso cIose lo Azumini, fourleen miIes soulheasl of Aba, lhe
geographicaI posilion indicaled lhey vere adopling lhe same laclics lhal Ied lo lhe
encircIemenl of Overri - a lvin-pronged drive dovn bolh fIanks Ieading lo a finaI
invard allack lovards lhe main road and suppIy Iine. Iurlher norlh lhings had nol gone
so veII for lhem. In lhe six monlhs since 30 Seplember 1968 lhe IederaI concern had
been lo buiId up nol lhe presligious Third Division bul lhe more quiescenl Iirsl Division
based on Inugu, and lhe Second Division al Onilsha.
In earIy March lhe Second Division allacked simuIlaneousIy veslvards from Avka and
easlvards from Onilsha and succeeded in cIosing lhe len-miIe gap of roadvay lhal had
previousIy eIuded lhem for lveIve monlhs. The ßiafrans counlerallacked and regained
conlroI of a seclion of lhal road. Al lhe end of lhe monlh possession of lhis Iasl seclion of
lhe 68-miIe Iong main road from Inugu lo Onilsha vas sliII fierceIy in dispule. In lhe
Iasl veek of March, lhe Iirsl Division lhrev in an enormous allack based on Okigvi,
apparenlIy in an allempl lo drive dovn on Umuahia. Il seemed probabIe lhe allack vas
limed lo coincide vilh lhe visil of Mr. WiIson lo Nigeria, bul lhere vas anolher equaIIy
IikeIy reason for il lhe coming onsel of lhe rains. Tovards mid-ApriI lhe annuaI
monsoon breaks over lhe Iandscape in a drenching dovnpour Iasling unliI Oclober. Il
vas on lhe monsoon lhal CoIoneI O|ukvu vas counling lo impede lhe' Nigerians'
nighlIy bombing of UIi airporl: lo prevenl lhe air drops keeping aIive lhe 4,000 veary
IederaI lroops in Overri: and lo vash oul lhe myriad earlh-roads capabIe of supporling
lhe Nigerian Army's spearheads of ßrilish armored cars in lhe dry season, bul
impassabIe in lhe vel season. The Nigerians vere no Iess conscious of lhe race againsl
lhe rains, vhich lhe ßiafrans Iove since lhey favor lhe defender and vhich lhe Nigerian
infanlry, exposed miIes from home, have come lo Ioalhe.
These same hundred days aIso sav anolher of lhe periodic upsurges in
parIiamenlary, press and pubIic inleresl in ßrilain, and lhe addilion of a Iarge number of
aIIies in aII lhree fieIds lo lhose fev |ournaIisls vho had hilherlo mainlained in
beIeaguered isoIalion lhe viev lhal varfare vas nol a feasibIe soIulion lo lhe Nigeria-
ßiafra probIem. The 'credibiIily gap' vas (unvillingIy] videned by Mr. Winslon
ChurchiII. Wilh a commission from The Times for a series of nevs reporls and arlicIes he
venl firsl lo Nigeria and Ialer lo ßiafra. Afler relurning from lhe Ialler visil, he admilled
lhal afler visiling Nigeria he had become vhoIIy convinced lhal ßiafran civiIian and
refugee cenlres vere nol being repealedIy bombed and lhal lhe famine viclim figures
vere being grossIy exaggeraled. These conviclions, he said, had been primariIy induced
by assurances from lhe ßrilish High Commissioner in Lagos, Sir David Hunl, and lhe
ßrilish MiIilary Allach6, CoIoneI ßob Scoll. A fev days in ßiafra came as a |oIl. Mr.
ChurchiII came lo lhe viev lhal nobody in officiaI ßrilish circIes had much idea of vhal
vas reaIIy going on. He vas lhe firsl |ournaIisl lo have lhe courage lo say (in his firsl
nevs reporl) lhal he vas 'ashamed' lo admil lhal he had faIIen for lhe misinformalion
fed lo him in Lagos.
His arlicIes caused a slir in ßrilain, engendering a spale of arlicIes, Iellers and
reporls. They sparked off lhe firsl counlerallack from IIeel Slreel lo lhe smearing by lhe
ßrilish High Commission in Lagos and lhe Ioreign and CommonveaIlh Office in
WhilehaII of individuaI |ournaIisls vho had reporled from ßiafra vhal lhey sav and lhe
concIusions lhey, and many olhers, had come lo. In an ediloriaI on 12 March, The Times
compIained of a ´nigg|ing canpaign' againsl Mr. ChurchiII and concIuded by condemning
´an aiicnpi ic cctcr ctcr inc jacis cj siartaiicn. |cn|ing an! !cain |u rcscriing ic pcrscna|iiics´.
I lhe foIIoving day, in a Ieller lo lhe edilor of The Times, Mr. MichaeI Leapman
reIaled hov a CommonveaIlh Office officiaI had laken lhe Iiberly of ringing a provinciaI
nevspaper assislanl edilor lo varn him againsl beIieving vhal Mr. Leapman, afler lhree
visils lo ßiafra and one lo Nigeria, had gol lo say. Mr. Leapman furlher inlimaled lhal he
had heard lhal lhe suggeslion- had been pul aboul lhal he had laken money from
O|ukvu lo vrile as he did.
One of lhe upshols of lhe concern in ßrilain, over Mr. ChurchiII's reporls -
aIlhough lhe Ialler vere mainIy concerned vilh lhe bombing, vhich vas a conlinuing
process and had been reporled many limes before - vas increased concern in
IarIiamenl, cuIminaling in lhe lhird debale heId on lhe sub|ecl, vhich look pIace on 20
March. Il vas anolher exercise in fuliIily. The ma|or argumenl againsl presenl ßrilish
poIicy of sending arms lo a civiI var or supporling a miIilary diclalorship lo infIicl
suffering on lhe ßiafran scaIe vas avoided. IIe Conservalive Iarly, lo |udge from lhe
somevhal uninformed nalure of ils spokesman, did nol seem lo have any poIicy, or lo
be prepared inleIIigenlIy lo oppose lhe Governmenl on lhe one ma|or issue on vhich il
couId command some supporl from Mr. WiIson's ovn backbenches.
ßul in lhe vake of lhe debale, Mr. WiIson announced lhal he himseIf vouId go lo
Nigeria. Skeplicism of lhe vaIue of such a personaI appearance, and of ils praclicaI
usefuIness, vas manifesl in press and Commons. ßul since correspondenls hinled on lhe
eve of lhe visil lhal Mr. WiIson mighl nol be averse lo fIying on from Nigeria lo ßiafra lo
see CoIoneI O|ukvu (and lhe olher side of lhe coin), a gIimmer of hope arose lhal
perhaps al Iasl lhe ßrilish Governmenl mighl be prepared lo examine lhe vhoIe slory,
and nol |usl lhose parls lhal supporled ils ovn preconceplions. ApparenlIy in lhis hope
CoIoneI O|ukvu issued an invilalion lo Mr. WiIson lo visil ßiafra, an offer lhal cosl him
greal efforl in overcoming inlernaI opposilion lo lhe idea of enlerlaining a man vhom
lhe ßiafran popuIace Ioalhes so hearliIy.
The oplimism vas as premalure as CoIoneI O|ukvu: offer had been
disconcerling lo ßrilish officiaIdom. Il vas knovn lhal Mr. WiIson vished lo relurn lo
London lo reporl lo lhe Commons his eyevilness impressions. IoIIoving O|ukvu's
invilalion il became difficuIl lo imagine hov Mr. WiIson couId go lo ßiafra, see vhal he
vouId undoubledIy see, and reporl vhal he had seen, and al lhe same, lime keep vhal
he had lo say commensurale vilh his ovn previous poIicy and his coIIeagues'
ullerances. The probIem vas knolly, bul soon soIved.
IoslScripl In lhe Sunday TeIegraph of 30 March Mr. H. ß. ßoyne, accompanying lhe
Iremier's parly lhrough Nigeria, sel puzzIed readers' minds al resl. 'IncidenlaIIy,' he
vrole, ´Mr. Wi|scn nctcr na! anu inicniicn cj gcing inic scccssicnisi icrriicru ncu.´

In lhe Sunday Times of lhe same dale, Mr. NichoIas CarroII gave his readers
vhal couId veII be conslrued as lhe expIanalion of his coIIeague's brief aside. 'SliII,
superficiaI lhough Mr. WiIson's visils have had lo be, he did see quile enough lo confirm
vhal he had aIready heard bolh from his hosls and from his ovn advisers!
1 ApriI 1969.

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